Living nativity is special gift to community |

Living nativity is special gift to community

Sally J. Taylor

A Carson City church will again present the community with a special Christmas gift.

The First United Methodist Church has transformed a city block along Musser and Division streets into Bethlehem on the night more than 2,000 years ago when Jesus was born. From 6:30-8 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, the community is invited to drive by the 10 scenes of the living nativity or walk along the “path to Bethlehem,” lighted by more than 800 luminaries. The drive-through begins at the corner of King and Division streets. About 1,000 people usually view the free living nativity each year.

The church welcomes donations of non-perishable food to be used to assist people in the community who are unemployed.

The living nativity is “a way to experience the magic moments of Christ’s birth that you just don’t get watching it on TV,” said Christie James, who has coordinated the production all nine years the church has presented it. “It transports you back. It’s our gift to the community. We know the story, but others don’t.

“The power of it is more than any of us could have foretold.”

It takes many hands, and some hoofs, too – 10 animals will be in the scenes – to create the nativity. About 200 people put on the living nativity for the two days, from those dressed as shepherds to people directing traffic. That’s a substantial portion of the congregation of about 560 members, said the Rev. Rob Jennings-Teats, who co-pastors the church with his wife, the Rev. Dixie Jennings-Teats.

“The wide support of the congregation is very meaningful to us,” Rob Jennings-Teats said. “We try to make it a spiritual experience. We’d like people to imagine that they are there at the birth of Jesus. It becomes real to you in that way.”

The Jennings-Teatses brought the idea of the living nativity to the church nine years ago when they arrived to become its pastors. The congregation, with James in the lead, took it from there.

“We like to kind of get out of the way and let the lay people take charge,” he said. “We’re there for spiritual support.”

Three weeks ago, it took 22 people from the congregation to pull everything out from storage. Last Saturday, 20 people lifted, cut and assembled the sets for the 10 scenes that include a palace, inn and stable.

Through the years, weather has rarely been a problem. The living nativity has only been canceled once, when high winds knocked down branches, James said, and it’s never rained. Cold and snow just add to the magic.

“The best way to do this is when it’s about 14 degrees,” James said. “The air sparkles (in the candle light). It’s cold but beautiful.”

Producing the living nativity is a lot of work, but well worth the effort, according to those who work hardest.

“I keep at it because everybody in the church gets so much out of giving to the community, telling the story that we get to share,” James said, “and the feedback that we get – people saying they’ve never seen anything like this, and the tears when they get to the final piece.”

“It’s so touching, really moving,” Rob Jennings-Teats said. “I’m amazed how many folks who have seen it say how moved they are by it.

“There are a lot of ways that people celebrate Christmas. Churches do all sorts of productions, but this is just a simple rehearsal of that sacred story.”