SANTA FE (BNM) - First Baptist Church Santa Fe hosted its annual Living Nativity program Dec. 19-21, 2019. An estimated 3,000 people visited the Living Nativity over the course of the event.
The Nativity featured actors and live animals portraying the birth of Jesus in Bethlehem. The program also included a marketplace, a prayer room and a hospitality center where cookies, hot cider and live music were offered, according to a program distributed at the event.
John McDaniel, First Baptist’s associate pastor of worship and education, told the Baptist New Mexican that the Living Nativity gives the church an opportunity to share the real meaning of Christmas with their community. “It's not about Santa Claus, it's about Jesus Christ. It's about [Him] coming to be our Savior - to be God with us, Emmanuel,” McDaniel said.
Choir member Joy Mwodo explained the significance of the event, saying, “The Nativity outside tries to replicate the scene at Bethlehem and it tries to portray what was going on during the birth [of Jesus]. Maybe by gazing at those [people] out there playing the part[s], people will be able to appreciate what the Lord has done for us by sending His Son.”
Chris Wilson, director of the Living Nativity, said that each year, the event changes people’s lives. “They come to the Nativity. They look at the manger scene. They come to see the animals. And, I've seen people break down; I've seen people change their lives; I've seen people join churches,” he said. It takes approximately 150 volunteers to make the event happen, McDaniel said.
In addition to the volunteers needed for the Living Nativity, McDaniel said each night, between 50 and 55 musicians performed in the church’s gymnasium. Volunteers also staffed the hospitality center, the church’s kitchen and the prayer room, while others drove buses shuttling visitors between the event and nearby parking lots.
McDaniel said that volunteers “love doing what they do. They don't do it because they feel obligated. They do it because they see that it's making a difference.”