Printed on: December 24, 2012

O Holy Night

By Christina Lords

For the past 32 years, the ebb and flow of cars moving in and out of the parking lot at the Idaho Falls Calvary Baptist Church on Christmas Eve has become the norm.

The live Nativity scene draws them in; many families come back year after year.

"I've been here when there's been 100 cars in the parking lot," organizer Jeannette Hartung said.

The Nativity scene features live actors and animals. Performances are set on a 20-minute loop, beginning at 7 p.m. until 9 p.m. today.

Church members play the parts of Mary, Joseph, angels and others, no matter the weather.

Residents can stay warm in their cars and listen to the story of the birth of Jesus on their radios.

"This has evolved into a community tradition," Hartung said. "People all over town and all around come to watch it. People have really come to expect this."

Church member Sue Michlik said community outreach is a priority.

"We want to present the gospel to the community in any way we can," she said. "This might be just the way to do it."

Michlik joined a handful of other church members stuffing more than 2,500 cookies into goodie bags for those attending the Nativity performance.

The bags are a good way to spread the story of Jesus and his teachings, she said.

"This kind of work is a great time for fellowship with the people you usually just run into on Sunday," Michlik said. "I think it's meaningful for the people who come."

While the Nativity performance has evolved with more elaborate costumes and a light show, Michlik and Hartung agreed the tradition still serves as a reminder of the true reason for the season.

"This keeps the message (of Jesus Christ) around," Hartung said. "I know everybody keeps getting busier and busier during the Christmas season, but this is a way for families to come and be together."

Features writer Christina Lords can be reached at 542-6762. Comment on this story on Post Talk at www.postreg

If you go

What: Calvary Baptist Church live Nativity scene

When: Re-enactments begin at 7 p.m. and run every 20 minutes until 9 p.m. today.

Where: Calvary Baptist Church, 785 First St., Idaho Falls

Admission is free.