There are the steadfast and longtime members who each year work to make Madison Avenue Baptist Church’s Live Nativity a memorable and fitting tribute to the season of Christmas.
Then there are the new relationships that are formed, said Pastor Greg Heisler. This year those newcomers will include members of The Gate — Gateway to Independence, who will be donning costumes as characters helping to tell the story of Christ’s birth.
The event will take place from 6-8 p.m. on Sunday, Dec. 4, at Madison Avenue Baptist, located at 1918 Madison Ave., in Maryville. The annual production is a walk-thru on the church’s campus. Heisler said the 2021 Live Nativity was highly attended, with close to 800 attending.
The Gate is a nonprofit that provides daytime programs for young adults with intellectual and physical disabilities. The organization has been meeting weekly in Madison Avenue’s activities building. Heisler said his church has come to know The Gate’s participants and asked if they wanted to be a part of the Live Nativity. Hands went up.
“That is so rewarding when you put this together and see different people coming together,” Heisler said. “Some of those who are involved are still the same but we also have new families that have joined our church this year. They start hearing about this event and sign up.”
The cast will be dressed as shepherds, Mary and Joseph and others as they tell the story of Jesus’ birth at eight different stations. Heisler said the eighth station has been added this year and will be at the end of the walk-thru, inside the sanctuary.
“The final scene will bring everything full circle,” the pastor said. “There will be a cross on the stage with lights to remind people he came with a purpose, and not just a cute baby in a manger.”
And like in years past, this production will have live animals in certain scenes. Some baby lambs will also be penned where children can get close. Additionally, there will be a photo booth for families to take photos. Refreshments will include hot cobblers along with cider and coffee.
Heisler said he wants this event to be a time of fellowship and way for attendees to slow down in what is always a busy frenzy during the holidays.
“We had noticed in past years they would come and enjoy the Live Nativity and then go back and get in their cars and leave,” he said. “We started trying to figure out how we can get them to linger. We created a space where they can sit down, be with the animals, have some cobbler and not be in such a hurry to get back to their cars.”
Social media has certainly helped get the word out, the pastor said. He said the church has a Facebook presence and asks its members to post as well. They start getting inquiries months in advance, asking if the Live Nativity is on this year.
Come Sunday, Madison Avenue will be ready for hundreds to come experience this gift to the community. Heisler said they have built upon an event that has new people and new ideas each time.