Editor's Note: This article was originally published on December 18, 2010 and written by Linda Brown-Patterson.
Hardy United Methodist Church will host their annual Live Nativity on Saturday, Dec. 14, 2013. The outdoor event takes place every 30 minutes from 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.
Bundling up to stay warm, I jumped in my car and drove my fiancé and myself to the church to attend Friday's presentation. There were about 40 people of all ages gathered around the manger area. A great way to start the Christmas season, some came from as far as Sterling Heights to see the performance that include donkeys and goats.
The scene took me back to my childhood years in the 70s. I remember my mother bundling me up in order to stand in the cold to see the presentation. I'd scurry into the passenger seat, and off we'd go in the 70-something Chrysler New Yorker. Those were the days before seat belts and when she turned into the church, I would slide right up against the cold door. That was always part of the fun. Every year I'd see basically the same thing, but every year I'd be as excited and thrilled to hear the story. It was the bright lights, music, Baby Jesus, and animals that I remember the most as a child.
Linda Zents is a fourth-generation congregation member and in charge of planning this year's event. She explained that planning started in April and that new props were created to "beef up" the presentation. A new narrative tape was created and they also tried to rent camels. Unfortunately, the camels were a little out of the budget but maybe in the future. For now the donkeys and goats remain as co-stars.
Such attention to detail and desire to create a special event is no surprise for this small, but well-rooted country church that was built in 1870 on one acre of land donated by the Hardy family. It now sits on 18 acres with a small barn, which is the backdrop for this year's Nativity scene.
In 1959, the congregation elected to have a resident pastor to better serve its parishioners, which also was around the time the idea of having the live nativity scene began. In January 1960, a resident pastor moved in and the following December the first Nativity scene was presented to the public. Through the years, the church members have changed the way they've presented the story, with backdrops, props and various costumes. Some years it would be placed in the front of the church, and others it would be to the side, but no matter where it was set up, it would always be a celebration.
Church members began preparing for the first night's presentation Friday around noon. Jerylann Cornell and her husband, Mark put on the final touches for refreshments and clearing paths through the snow for the public. Mark has been part of the Nativity scene since he was a small child and for the better part of his life. This year he is excited to represent Joseph.
As the lights dimmed and I stood in the same place that I had nearly 35 years ago, a heartwarming feeling came over me to be part of a community that has such strong traditions. I was very touched by how every church member who greeted us was welcoming and friendly. This was especially true afterward when we went into the beautifully decorated Sanctuary. We joined the Rev. Joyce Wallace and other members of the church in the recreation area to have hot chocolate, homemade baked goods and to get to know our neighbors.
As we drove out, we were flagged down and ordered to stop. As two women came up to my car, they handed me a bundle of homemade cookies and thanked us for coming. It's the little things that people do, that are sometimes appreciated the most.
This event is truly to celebrate the true meaning of Christmas. It doesn't matter what religion you are, or how you worship, this is an experience that many will find educational, touching and a one-of-a-kind.
The church is between Hartland and Howell. Performances are held between 6:30 p.m.-8:30 p.m. The scenes run 20 minutes long and everyone is invited to come into the Sanctuary and enjoy some warm baked goods and conversation. Since this is considered a time of worship, the audience is asked not to take pictures and refrain from talking while the story is being told.