Conley’s United Methodist Church will be celebrating it’s 11th year holding their Living Nativity on Dec. 16 and 17, from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m.
“It was just a way to celebrate the Christmas season and to celebrate Jesus,” explained coordinator Lisa Dolsay of the event’s origin. “It’s grown. When it first started, they didn’t have any buildings. They had no speaking parts in it, and they had about 15 actors and so from there it’s grown.”
This season, the Living Nativity will include 75 actors portraying angels, the innkeeper, the wise men, shepherds, townspeople and even Roman soldiers complete with chariot.
Following entrance into the free event, viewers can witness the Angel shed, the town of Bethlehem with townspeople, the inn and the scene at the manger.
“As people come in, they get put in a group and you’ll have a guide that will take you through,” explained Dolsay. “They’ll go through the genealogy of Jesus, go to the annunciation where the angel came to Mary, through to King Harrods’s Temple where the wise men are.”
The last stop through the Living Nativity will be at the tomb, which Dolsay said is an important part of the Bible for Methodists.
“The whole reason we put the tomb in there is because Jesus’ resurrection in the Methodist Church is a pivotal point and we look to that because it’s actually the symbol of our salvation. So we put the tomb in there to remind us that if it hadn’t been for Jesus being born, then Easter would never have happened and we wouldn’t have salvation.”
Although the event is free, attendees are welcome to offer monetary donations and or canned goods, all of which will be donated to local charities and food pantries.
“Everything that is donated, and it’s mostly canned goods that we ask for, it’s donated to local charities in our community, such as the Cape Henlopen Food Basket, the Home of the Brave, and the Christian Store Houses, to name a couple of them,” said Dolsay. “It’s definitely a part of what you’re asked of, to give back and I think one of the biggest things for anybody is that we love one and other and that we take care of each other. That we take care of people who are in tough circumstances, that’s a really important part. It’s just so important.”
Dolsay said that in past years the Living Nativity has had 6,000 visitors. She added that she hopes that each person who attends this year’s Nativity will be positively touched by the Christmas story portrayed.
“Sometimes people, their lives go in directions and they become broken and it even says in the Bible, ‘Jesus said bring me your weary and your burdened.’ Since I’ve come into the church my life has changed so tremendously, it’s amazing to me how God works in my life. It’s something that I want to share with people and hopefully somebody that’s looking for something, that feels lost, through coming to the Nativity, can find that message and feel that sense of peace within themselves.”
A Saturday evening service on Dec. 17 will start at 4:30 p.m. prior to the Live Nativity opening and music by The Reminders, who will continue to play throughout the night.
“Both nights we’ll have music performed in the sanctuary. There are different church members, local musicians and other invited guests performing,” she said. Adding, “We have hot chocolate and cookies in the Fellowship Hall as well.”
Dolsay said that the church’s Living Nativity has become a favorite Christmas event for locals, and helps everyone remember the true meaning of the season.
“Everybody, when you say Conley’s Living Nativity, they know exactly what you’re talking about,” said Dolsay. “It’s been a very good response. People love to bring their kids there. It’s a good place for the community to remember what Christmas is really about, Jesus’ birth, not so much about the gifts, and the shopping, and the craziness that seems to come with the season.”
The Living Nativity is located at 33106 Jolyns Way off Camp Arrowhead Road, a half-mile from Peddler’s Village shopping center on Route 24. For more information, call (302) 945-1881.