Next weekend, Rockmart Presbyterian Church will be ready to continue a longtime tradition held every two years in front of their sanctuary depicting the humble birth of a savior.
The Rev. Maryellen Hittel invites the community to come take part in the biannual Christmas event and see their live action nativity scene on the weekend of Dec. 16 and 17at 6:30 p.m. and 8 p.m. each day.
The church is just about ready to go to celebrate the birth of Jesus in the manger in Bethlehem more than 2,000 years ago, using this past Saturday to begin setting up in front of the church on the lawn and also prepare the indoor areas of the church with decorations for the Christmas season.
“We have a tape with music and the narration of the Christmas story while our actors come out and perform,” Hittel said. “It has been the tradition to put this together, and it is one way we reach out to the community.”
Church members all take part in the event, with some donning costumes and roles while others do their part with help setting up the outdoor manger or ensuring costumes are pressed and ready to wear.
“People love the Christmas music and it isn’t just nostalgic of it but also for a deeper meaning,” Hittel said. “I think particularly at this time of year people are looking for meaning and in our world today we continue to look for that. We believe that is in community, and the Christmas story is one way we can share with the community, especially the message of love.”
The event is free to the public, and everyone is invited to drive by and see the show.
“There are people who come back who are out of town and connected to the church who participate,” Hittel said.
She cited an email from one visitor who came to the Live Nativity performance in 2015 who first experienced it at 7 and returned and found it nearly unchanged in the span of decades, and was thankful to the church it was still happening.
Hittel said their biannual Live Nativity is a tradition the church membership loves, expressed in the deep meaning and joy they take in preparing and acting out their parts with care.
"It is the core of who we are as a church and it tells the story of Jesus, God with us, that we believe is central to our faith. The church members love this story and love that they have the opportunity to share it with their community," Hittel said. "It is God’s love that binds us together and that at this time of year so many people are seeking and may not even know it."
She added that "every year I hear people remarking how they are touched by the love and awe that they experience as they come to participate and to watch the pageant."
The Live Nativity began as a tradition for Rockmart Presbyterian Church in 1950s and has been continued every two years since.
In previous years, the church brought in live animals to be part of their live nativity.
During the 2015 event, the church decided not to include the donkey, sheep and goats. Hittel said it helped ensure the focus stayed on what the event is truly about: the birth of Jesus.
“We have updated the music, but we still end with the Hallelujah chorus as we have in the past,” Hittel said.
Members will hold a practice run of the nativity scene this weekend ahead of the Dec. 16 and Dec. 17 performances.
The church will also hold a Christmas Cantata performance on Dec. 17 during their morning service for those interested in hearing traditional Christmas hymns, and will also hold a Dec. 20 service starting at 6 p.m. for those who need hope and healing during the holidays.
A candlelight service on Dec. 24 is also being held.