‘A kickoff to the Christmas season’

Published 8:02 pm Thursday, December 5, 2019

Albert Lea church to host Live Nativity for 26th year


For 26 years, members of New Life Christian Church and others look forward to the first Friday and Saturday of December as a time to promote the joy of the Christmas season.

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Through the church’s drive-thru live Nativity, members present 14 sites that tell the story of Jesus Christ, with costumes, scenery and even animals.

“We want to make people aware of the whole idea of Christ coming and what that’s all about,” said the Rev. Vern Harris with the church. “It’s a message in its own right, but more than anything, we’re simply promoting what we believe is the joy, the peace and the love of the season.”

Harris said the Nativity will take place from 7 to 9 p.m. both days in the church’s parking lot.

It takes more than 100 people between the two nights to make it a reality, whether that’s in greeting cars as they come into the parking lot, standing in for a role at one of the sites or helping volunteers get ready or fed inside then church.

“It’s all about goodwill, good attitude, a joyful spirit,” Harris said. “There’s a lot of laughter, a lot of goodwill.”

He said the event began small, with an initial five sites for people to enjoy, but grew over the  years. This will be his 10th year to be a part of it, and it’s a time he said he enjoys.

Volunteers generally start arriving 1 1/2 to two hours before the event begins and take part in dinner, fellowship and meditation before getting prepared for community members to arrive.

He said there are some church members who prepare their favorite snacks and dinner items for others to eat.

“It’s a celebration of food as well,” he said.

In previous years, members of Albert Lea Vineyard Church have sometimes participated, and he said he is open to others joining in for future years.

“It’s sort of a kickoff to the Christmas season,” he said, noting he has heard from many community members that it has become part of their family Christmas traditions.

The favorite part for the children is typically the animals. He anticipated this year would include sheep, cattle, donkeys and at least one camel.

The Nativity is free for people to enjoy; however, Harris said people often want to donate when they come. For the last few years, all donations given during the Nativity have gone to the Albert Lea Salvation Army.

The same will be done this year, and a red kettle will be in the parking lot for donations.

Last year, the kettle collected $750.