Mariner’s Bethel United Methodist Church is continuing its decade-old tradition of holding a Live Nativity, featuring the Christmas story, music and carols.
“It’s something that is nice… It’s nice to portray the birth of Jesus, which is the true meaning of Christmas, and show the community while gathering members of the church around to portray it,” said Jim Klinedinst, the event’s coordinator.
Mariner’s holds the Live Nativity to remind the community about the true meaning of Christmas, he said.
“We had started our contemporary service, and it was just something we wanted to have available as an outreach to the community, just to be a witness,” said Youth Director Christina Wilson, who helped create the event. “A lot of times, we felt that Jesus didn’t get noticed at Christmas because we’re always so busy. We’re going and getting gifts, decorating for Christmas, and sometimes we forget the real reason we’re celebrating Christmas. We wanted to be a beacon in the community.”
Wilson said the creation of the event was rather serendipitous, after someone donated found wood to the church.
“Someone dropped off a load of old wood to the church, for us to use for bonfires. Out of that old wood that was going to be used to burn, a stable was built by Duncan Cornell, and it gives a realistic rustic look, which was perfect for our outdoor nativity.”
The Live Nativity will be held on Saturday, Dec. 14, from 5:30 to 6:30 p.m. in Ocean View’s John West Park and on Wednesday, Dec. 18, from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. in the outdoor space on Central Avenue between the church and its cemetery.
Wilson said that, over the years, the Live Nativity has grown in size and offerings.
“It has grown. Each year, we’ve added a new or different aspect. It kind of started out as just the nativity, then we added the music, and we’ve added the story, live animals and refreshments. Each year, we’ve added a little more to enhance it.”
She added that, a number of years ago, the church even purchased its own livestock for the event.
“We actually purchased a donkey a couple of years ago for this very purpose, and that donkey will not load on the trailer,” she said with a laugh. “Her name is Amazing Grace.”
Klinedinst said that, last year, approximately 200 people attended the free community event.
“The way the event works, it begins at 6 p.m., and every half hour we retell the story. Each time, there are new members from the church portraying different parts on the Christmas story. They can come while it’s going on and stay for the next version of the story,” he explained.
“We’ll have refreshments, hot cocoa and desserts available for folks who come out. And we’ll have carols as part of the story, as well. Everything is free of charge. It’s just a nice evening for families to come out and witness the Christmas story being portrayed. It’s nice to see it played out live.”
Klinedinst said about 100 church parishioners participate in telling the story every year.
“It’s something that brings our church family together, that — no matter what age — they can be a part of this,” added Wilson. “The first year I participated, I was expecting… It was very surreal. It gave me an insight to what Mary must’ve felt like. I don’t really know how to put it into words, but it was a special moment for me when I played Mary while expecting… a very special moment.”
Wilson said that the event has always been well received by the community and has even helped welcome new members into the church.
“We’ve always had a very positive response to it. We’ve had folks that come and stop by just to see what’s going on, because we sometimes have a bonfire going on. We’ve have some come that have never heard the story of Christmas, and it’s really neat to be able to tell them that for the first time,” she said. “We’ve had some folks come in from the nativity, walk in the church and continue to come after that because it touched their hearts.”
Klinedinst said he hopes the community will continue to attend the Live Nativity and that those who have yet to attend take a second out of their busy holiday schedule to remember the true meaning of Christmas.
“We just feel it’s a nice evening for families to come out, have some fellowship and enjoy the Christmas story.”
Mariner’s Bethel United Methodist Church is located at 81 Central Avenue in Ocean View. For more information, call (302) 539-9510 or visit www.marinersbethel.org.