Christmas has spawned many tales, but there is one that started it all – the origin story, if you will – and telling it highlights the true meaning of Christmas for the Elmira Pentecostal Assembly Church. A live outdoor nativity performance has been offered for four years now.
Telling the tale of Christ’s birth through a magical show that includes more than a hundred volunteer performers and real animals really brings the story to life, say organizers.
Rachel Bauman and Brian Chamberlain have been helping out with the show since it began in Elmira, and each year there is something new and exciting.
“We’re trying to show the birth of Christ and the true meaning of Christmas from birth to cross,” said Bauman.
For Chamberlain it’s more about the sentiment: “It’s a good family experience, and it’s become a bit of a tradition for a lot of families,” he said.
The outdoor play will take place in the parking lot of the Elmira Pentecostal Assembly at 280 Arthur St. S., with seating for some 600 people for each show.
“Our biggest year was 3,700 [people],” said Chamberlain of total turnout, adding he expects to see the same amount this year depending on the weather.
Many of the actors in the play are volunteers and some have been doing it since the first year, explains Chamberlain, but there are often newcomers, which makes it even more exciting. Performers range in age, including babies that are carried by the townspeople.
“You don’t need performing experience to be able to do it, you just need to have people who are willing and able to help,” said Bauman.
Part of the fun of putting the show together is being able to add new elements each year, whether it’s adding new animals or changing up the set added Bauman. The animals had an element of spontaneity, too. Past shows have included sheep, goats, chickens and horses, but this year it’s about the cows.
All the animals are from local farms who volunteer their animals in the play, a way to get the whole community involved.
“It’s not just our church, it’s the community at large that really helps us out to do it,” Bauman said of those who make the farm animals available.
Although the nativity play is in its fourth year, Bethany Missionary Church in Kitchener previously put on the live nativity story, but after a change in the pastor the show was discontinued. Luckily, pastor Bill Anderson, who helped out with the show there for many years, extended his help to those at Elmira Pentecostal, keeping the tradition alive. Many of those who used to go watch the show in Kitchener even make the trip to Elmira to watch the new nativity play.
The play is not just about the birth of Jesus, but takes the audience through an immersive experience from the stable he was born in to the time of Jesus on the cross. More than just telling a story, it’s a reason for people to think about what the holiday season is really about, said Bauman.
“It’s to bring people back to the true meaning of Christmas and why we celebrate it – we want to magnify Christ’s birth in it.”
After the show there will be hot chocolate and cookies inside of the church for show goers to enjoy and warm up. This year Elmira Pentecostal will also be accepting donations to the Woolwich Community Services food bank.
The church is offering six performances over the weekend of December 7 and 8. Show times are 6 p.m., 6:45 p.m., and 7:30 p.m. on both days. Those who are coming out to the show are asked to dress for any kind of weather and be prepared for rain or snow.