Brookside Christian Reformed Church in Grand Rapids, Mich., recently held its 20th annual Living Nativity, a retelling of the Christmas story that serves as the church’s largest community outreach project each year.
“It’s Brookside’s gift to the community—to share the Christmas story,” said Phyllis Moes, Brookside’s spiritual foundation and care coordinator. The retelling starts with Adam and Eve through Christ’s birth, death, and resurrection. “We try to share the whole gospel,” said Moes.
More than 200 members of the church took part in the event, which was held over three nights the weekend of December 11-13 with three viewings each night, one every half-hour. The outdoor portion of the retelling included a manger scene with actors portraying Mary, Joseph, the infant Jesus, and shepherds, joined by by live animals.
Inside, visitors enjoyed hot chocolate and cookies. Children visited the interactive “Neighbors in Nazareth” set, where various shops were set up to depict what village life might have been like in Bethlehem at the time of Jesus’ birth.
More than 1,300 people turned out over the three nights, with some traveling more than an hour from outside Grand Rapids because they had seen the Living Nativity promoted on the church’s website. Several hundred visitors turned out on the final night despite a steady rainfall.
“My actors were real troupers and just got drenched, but no one complained,” said Kathy Miedema, who directed the retelling.
Beth Rozeboom, who with her husband, Cal, have brought their farm animals to be part of the production since its inception, said the Living Nativity is a great way for members to introduce their friends to the Christmas story and share their faith.
“You can invite people who wouldn’t otherwise think about going to church,” said Rozeboom, whose children and grandchildren have been part of the retelling. “You plant the seed but you don’t know whether it’s going to grow.”
The Living Nativity concludes with the church choirs and actors singing “Lord, I Lift Your Name on High.” Visitors are invited to meet with church members if they want to learn more about Jesus, Miedema said.