Emmanuel Baptist Church in Athens is preparing for its upcoming drive-thru Live Nativity scheduled for Dec. 16-18 from 5:30-8:30 each night. Church members volunteered over the weekend to assemble the sets for the local tradition.
“Our goal is to give a gift to the community and hope that gift is well received,” EBC Minister of Music Mark Rodgers said.
As for listening to the Christmas Story as they drive-thru the nativity, visitors have multiple platforms from which they can choose. CD’s, wireless speakers, a program to read, or a QR code to the church website is available.
Last year, an estimated that at least 700 people visited the nativity. After reusing the sets for several years, the church made the decision to construct new sets this year while repurposing what they could. Saturday, church members helped construct them in the church parking lots while others put finishing touches on the sets’ artwork.
There are seven stations with he seventh being The Cross. The six other sets are King David, The Angel, The Innkeeper, The Shepherds, The Wisemen, and The Manger. In years past, live animals have also been a part of the nativity.
“If we have live animals, we have been lucky lately to have them, we put them at the Manger and sometimes with the shepherds. If we don’t have them, we have a whole lot of wooden sheep. Somebody designed wooden sheep and camels for us, so we use them,” Rodgers said.
The church team tasked with organizing the live nativity work tirelessly. Rodgers serves as team leader but gives praise to those who give so much to help make sure things run smoothly. Nancy Wallette designs and decorates the sets. Marla Harvey serves as administrator and director each night. Janette Blackwood oversees the costumes and Tony and Kathy Alessi help with promotion.
To bring the Live Nativity together each year, the church enlists up to 60 people working in a variety of roles. Many serve as characters and prayer partners while others serve food, greet guests, provide security and traffic control, and set and clean up.
Local Boy Scout Troop 240 will also lend a hand this year. The young men will man the Shepherd’s station each night.
“One of the main reasons we are put here as Christians is to love our neighbor. That translates into serving the community. We are always looking for active ways to serve our community. We put on Kids Day at the Lions Club every year. We try to find multiple ways. The biggest way we serve our community is through the Nativity at Christmas time. When we finally came up with that the reason for doing this was to give to the community, it really helped focus people on why we are doing it and why we should. Everyone likes giving Christmas gifts, so it’s a very positive thing for us. ‘It’s more blessed to give than receive.’ Turns out, that works. We aren’t doing it for our benefit. We are doing it to give to someone else but it ends up accruing to our benefit,” Rodgers said.