Telling the story about the birth of Christ through the Live Journey to the Nativity has become a tradition for the Mechanic Grove Church of the Brethren.

The Quarryville church will reprise the tradition from 5:30 to 8 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 16.

Church member Diane Herr came up with the idea for the outdoor event during the pandemic as a way to safely bring people together during the Christmas season. The first one debuted in 2020 with 240 attendees. Each year, the audience has grown from 300 in 2021 followed by 400 last year.

She wrote the script based on the Old and New Testament Scripture to tell the story of the birth of Jesus. Herr says she loves getting the message out about Christmas.

“It’s in my heart all year long, and I’m ready to burst with enthusiasm to begin our journey again,” she says.

Travelers are welcomed in the church Family Life Center to enjoy refreshments like hot chocolate before being called in groups of 50 to begin the 40-minute outside journey.

Shepherds will lead visitors along a lighted path with five stops, where narrators use Scripture and well-known carols while actors pantomime the Christmas story. The journey begins with the angel Gabriel telling Mary she’s been chosen to be the mother of Jesus and ends with the Holy family in the stable.

Narrators will lead carol-singing at a campfire on the path, ending with “We Three Kings” as wise men appear to have the visitors join them to follow the star to the manger. There they find the Holy family, shepherds and animals. Angels appear to sing “Hark the Herald Angels Sing,” “Joy to the World” and “Let Me Tell You About My Jesus.”

The one-night production includes a cast of 51 with 13 children, 12 teens and 26 adults. Behind the scenes are another 26 people. Everyone involved is a member or attends the church.

There are live animals, too: three sheep, two donkeys, four goats and one calf.

New this year is an opportunity for people to meet with a pastor after the last scene. The Rev. Kevin Richardson and church visitation pastor the Rev. Rita Carter will be available to talk, listen and pray with people.

More Faith and Values Stories: 

Richardson began his pastorship last October at Mechanic Grove and welcomed visitors last year to the event. He looks forward to this year’s journey and having conversations with those who need prayer or spiritual guidance.

“The journey is a wonderful way to bridge 2,000 years of history and today,” Richardson says. “It transports people back in time.”

For the fourth year, Jess and Josh Bledsoe will play Mary and Joseph. The couple says the part of the Holy family fills them with joy and excitement every year.

“Being a mother is a blessing, but also challenging at times,” Jess Bledsoe says. “While playing the role of Mary, I think about what it would be like for her and can only imagine the joy and love she felt the night of Jesus’ birth.”

Her husband Josh says the journey is a great reminder of the true meaning of Christmas for those in the production as well as the travelers.

The couple are parents of 2-year-old Gracie and 6-year-old Addie, who plays an angel.

Colton Houghton, 12, will portray a shepherd for the fourth year. He joins his brothers, Mason, 15, a shepherd, and Jackson, 21, who’s a king.

Brethren Live Nativity 004.jpg

Young shepherd, Colton Houghton with his goat pose for a picture on Live Nativity at Mechanic Grove Church of the Brethren Quarryville on Tuesday, Nov. 28, 2023.

“I like playing a shepherd with the live animals in the stable at the birth of Jesus,” Colton says.

Herr believes it’s more important than ever to have the event to proclaim the birth of Christ. Her hope is that the journey through the scenes helps visitors feel as though they are traveling just as Mary and Joseph did 2,000 years ago.

While many attendees are likely familiar with the story of Jesus’ birth, Herr notes that others may be less familiar. For those visitors, the journey may help them begin their own journey with faith.

“Christ is the perfect gift for everyone,” Herr says. “We want to share that good news. This is my passion for the event.”

For more information, call the church at 717-786-2723.

Brethren Live Nativity 006.jpg

Young shepherd, Colton Houghton with his goat, as well as Josh and Jess Bledsoe portraying the Holy Family in the stable, as they pose for a picture on Live Nativity at Mechanic Grove Church of the Brethren Quarryville on Tuesday, Nov. 28, 2023.

What to Read Next