For a child has been born for us, a son given to us; authority rests upon his shoulders, and he is named Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Isaiah 9:6, NRSVUE
A family event focused on the real reason for the season, where Jesus was center stage, was hosted at Trinity United Methodist Church in Lead, South Dakota. A live nativity scene was shared inside the Christian Ministry Center for Northern Black Hills town.
Reminding a community that Christmas is about birth of Jesus is essential. This event did just that. Rev. Jason Christensen had tried a similar event in the White River, South Dakota community, where he previously served. So, he thought he would give it a try at Trinity UMC.
"It to designed to be an outreach piece to the community. So, we distributed flyers to different businessesthe opera house here in Lead, grocery store, where they were handed out when food was bagged. We had news bulletins on the radio. It was in the newspaper and sent to my colleagues here in the Northern Black Hills," said Pastor Jason.
The idea was to present the manger scene in Bethlehem to the community. First, people had coffee and cookies, and then they got to see the scene. Then, scripture readings were shared after a group was seated, and carols were sung. Children could gather to enjoy a children's Christmas story from Janet Christensen, Pastor Jason's wife, and puppeteering.
"The atmosphere was like an Advent Festival," said Pastor Jason.
The event takes volunteers to play the various parts in the scenes, people to greet, and people to offer hospitality. Ten people are needed for the cast, four to five peoplet greet, and four or five people in the kitchen. Volunteers also help with children's activities.
"It's always a little intimidating when the church pastor asks these men, 'hey, I want you to dress up in a bathroom or a sheet, and I'd like you to be Jesus. The first thing out of their mouth is, 'I don't have to memorize lines, right?' I am new here, so I wasn't sure how it would go," said Pastor Jason. "They say yes when they discover that we bless the community's people with this wonderful story."
There is an impact on the community but Christensen shares that there is also an impact on the church. "It impacts the community, but the church gets to see and connect with the people coming. It is impactful for the people who were the characters, to connect with the people that came through."
The Nativity event was held indoors as a caution. Pastor Jason said, "I thought it could be 20 below and four feet of snow. Instead, it was 50 degrees out and bright sun."
There were more than 120 people that were touched by the experience. "A lot of people said, 'what a wonderful event!' The cast and volunteers had fun doing the event. We got to remind our community that Christmas is about the birth of Christ," said Pastor Jason.