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Churches continue Nativity traditions

Posted: December 10, 2011 1:30 a.m.
Updated: December 10, 2011 1:30 a.m.

Carloads of people will proceed through two of the Santa Clarita Valley’s longstanding Christmas traditions, drive-thru living Nativity scenes.

Beginning this weekend, Bethlehem Lutheran and Santa Clarita United Methodist Church will host their seasonal re-enactments.

SC United Methodist has been hosting its nativity since 1982. For nearly 30 years, the church has hosted a live portrayal of the Christmas story.

It began as one scene in front of the church’s fellowship hall and evolved into a drive-thru depiction of eight different scenes retelling the birth of Christ.

“This is meant to be an outreach to the community,” Candy Holsenbeck-Smith, original creator of the Nativity, said. “We do this so people can know what the Christmas story really is all about.”

Bethlehem Lutheran Church began hosting its event Friday and runs through Sunday from 6 to 8:30 p.m.
Santa Clarita United Methodist Church Nativity will be held Dec. 17 and 18 from 5:30 to 8 p.m. Each car that comes through will receive a CD with a guided narration with accompanying Christmas music and a children’s storybook.

Steve Eaton, a veteran set designer in the entertainment industry, helps with the sets every year. He also participates with his two children and acts in a scene.

“This is meant to be a family event,” Eaton said. “This is something we can do together every year.”

More than 400 cars drive through the Nativity each year. Man community groups such as the Optimist Club and Boys and Girls club will volunteer to participate in the event.

“This event is a wonderful way for the community to take a break from the hub-bub that goes on at Christmastime and take a few minutes to think about the true story of Christmas,” Holsenbeck-Smith said. “It is a wonderful family experience.”

More than the nativity
At Bethlehem Lutheran Church, this will be its 18th annual offering of what it calls “Follow the Star.”

“What we are offering to the community is not just a living Nativity,” Rochelle Egan, event coordinator, said. “This is about the life of Jesus Christ.”

The event depicts 12 scenes taking the viewer from Jesus’ birth through his crucifixion, resurrection and ascension.
Bethlehem’s production can be viewed both via drive-thru and by walk up. Each year, more than 4,000 people view the production. Some years reaching upwards of 6,000 attendees.

“This becomes a Christmas tradition for many people,” Egan said.

The event is offered free of charge. The church only asks for voluntary donations of canned food that will benefit the Santa Clarita foodbank.

Pastor John Cozman of Bethlehem emphasizes the importance of this event as an outreach to the community.

“For many people, this is the first time they will hear about the life and love of Jesus Christ,” Cozman said.

Bethlehem is also offering caroling, hot chocolate and cookies. This year, choirs from Calvary Chapel School in Downey, Santa Clarita Christian Elementary and the Saugus High School concert choir will all perform during the event.
Santa Clarita United Methodist is located at 26640 Bouquet Canyon Road, and Bethlehem Lutheran is located at 27265 Luther Drive.



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