Under The Christmas Stars

Clifton’s Immanuel Lutheran Church presents The Perfect Gift, a COVID-cautious live nativity scene to celebrate the reason for the season

"For God so loved the world, that He gave his only begotten son, that whoever believes in him should not perish, but have eternal life."

John 3:16

CLIFTON – With that scripture, the name of Clifton’s Immanuel Lutheran Church live nativity was born – The Perfect Gift. Through his death and resurrection, Jesus defeated sin, death, and the power of the devil. And in trusting in Him as the savior, people need not fear death, because God gives his children the gift of eternal life.

The massive production on Dec. 19 had around 80 congregation members taking part. But many, many more worked behind the scenes making décor, sewing costumes, hauling in the round bales that lined the route and setting up the technical aspect.

The first drive-through live nativity in 2019 was staged in pre-COVID-19 times. Now, with people able to stay in their cars to view the biblical scenes, it turned out to be the perfect, COVID-cautious presentation of Jesus Christ’s birth and life. And each scene was a separate family pod, ensuring social distancing.

“The hoops that we had to jump through to make our people feel safe, as well as protocols to make it safe for the people who came--that was different from last year,” Pastor Brian McQuiggin said. “Also, we added a few scenes, and various members played different parts.”

The lighting was improved and even fog machines were added for extra effect.

Like a true family, experiencing life together, the church’s congregation isn’t just called to worship on Sunday morning. They have become a close-knit family as they study Scripture and pray with one another; the church being a place where they have friends to confide in, shoulders to cry on, and people to laugh with as they journey through life. That bond was evident in the amount of time and effort put into the large-scale production.

“We pray that this experience will be a blessing to you and your family as we all pause during this busy season to focus on the true meaning of Christmas,” the introduction to the Live Nativity tour The Perfect Gift stated. “However, the most important story shared is that of the first Christmas, the true story of God becoming man, taking the form of a tiny, helpless baby, as He descended to earth to dwell among us....”

Historically, Immanuel Lutheran was the German Lutheran church amongst the Norwegian Lutheran churches in the community. Where language was the difference maker in the past, today the church is considered the more conservative Lutheran church, taking the Scriptures more literally and remaining unchanging in the face of contemporary culture.

In that vein, McGibben reiterated that in a world of increased commercialization surrounding Christmas time, the church’s special Christmas production was primarily to get Jesus’ gospel out to the public..

The event coordinators counted 183 cars on Saturday night. While a few of the cars had only one occupant, many had 3 or more occupants enjoying the passing scenes and story.

“Overall, I think it was a huge success, as the number of cars have increased over the year before,” McQuiggin said. “While it does take a lot of work and time, we feel that it is a blessing to proclaim the Word of God to everyone who drives by. Therefore, it becomes a labor of love, and we look forward to doing it for years to come.”

To get the message across to the passing cars, ancient times met modern times with the modern technology of QR codes, MP3 files, CD’s and smart phones broadcasting the event script.. For the less tech-savvy, the crew dressed in bright red overalls was on hand to solve any encountered problems.

And Eloise Schmidt was perfectly happy in her manger as Baby Jesus, with her parents Josh and Elizabeth by her side. Aside from an occasional break out kid goat, the ox, the donkey and even the camels were also perfectly happy to be on display, leaving the spectators in awe.

And at the end of the line – the Resurrection Scene – McQuiggin offered the visitors a parting gift and the wish for a blessed Christmas.

Photos by SIMONE WICHERS-VOSS

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