Living nativity takes place in Carson this weekend | NevadaAppeal.com

Living nativity takes place in Carson this weekend

Andrew Pridgen
Appeal Staff Writer
Cathleen Allison/Nevada Appeal
NEVADA APPEAL | NEVADA APPEAL

Live camels, donkeys, sheep and cows.

More than 200 church volunteers dressed in garb inspired by biblical Bethlehem.

Lighting provided by candles and luminaries and well-crafted sets of a symbol of a Christmas long, long ago.

No, this isn’t the soundstage from Mel Gibson’s latest movie, it’s the seventh annual “Living Nativity” slated to take place this weekend at Carson City First United Methodist Church.

Church officials, who call the annual event its “gift to Carson City,” said this year’s presentation should attract more than 3,000 visitors of all faiths and denominations.

“We get a lot of people who are interested in the Christmas story – and this is the closest they’ll come to seeing it,” said Christie James, the church’s head volunteer/organizer of the nativity.

“You don’t even have to be Christian – just seeing the lights and hearing the story is the point. One year there were girls watching from across the way – a few weeks later they came to the church, on their own.”

Rob Jennings-Teats, along with his wife, Dixie, has been pastor of the congregation for eight years. The couple brought the living nativity idea to Carson from their old parish in Paradise, Calif.

“It was a really great thing in (California),” he said. “We drew people from all over. It’s a thing where there’s so much that goes on at Christmas, with buying and Santa Claus, we really think there’s a void out there. The story of Christmas is something people can relate to and there’s not many avenues anymore for people to tell it.”

Volunteer James said each year she’s surprised about the reaction the live nativity invokes.

“The comments and reaction that really stands out in my mind is the number of people who are crying,” she said. “People come up to me and say they’ve forgotten – they’ve forgotten a Christmas that’s not about Santa.

“For anyone, this can be a little reminder.”

Volunteers have worked since Saturday preparing the sets, costumes and staging the production, which will begin 6:30 p.m. Friday.

“This year, it’s really taken traction in the church,” said James. “It’s been really incredible – the nativity has taken on a life of its own in the congregation. People came up to me this summer and said ‘I saw candles for sale, do you want me to pick them up?’ Yes. ‘I saw long-nosed lighters, will it help if I buy some?’ Yes.

“In other words, people are excited – we’ve got a lot of people who’ve been involved for all seven years, from (parish members) in their 60s, to entire families.”

Jennings-Teats estimated more than 200 members of the 1,000-member congregation help with the nativity and the benefits it gives back to the community of church-goers are “innumerable.”

“I just ask everyone that participates in it to let it be a spiritual experience for them,” he said. “So if they play the role of Mary or Joseph or an angel or whatever – to just imagine that they were at that place and time, to experience what it’d be like to be that character … to allow it to be something more than just playing the role.”

• Contact reporter Andrew Pridgen at apridgen@nevadaappeal.com or 881-1219.

If you go

What: Living Nativity

Where: Carson City First United Methodist Church, 412 W. Musser St.

When: 6:30-8 p.m. Friday-Sunday

What it is: Motorists can drive or walk through the living nativity called a “Path to Bethlehem,” lighted by more than 800 luminaries.

Leave plenty of time: “Traffic can back up, but be a patient motorist,” said church volunteer Christie James. “It’s worth it.”