Real Life Church to host live nativity Dec. 23

NILES — Congregants of a local church will once again bring to life a Bethlehem nativity scene.

The event, hosted by Real Life Church, will take place between 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 23, in the parking lot of the Niles-Buchanan YMCA, 905 N. Front St. in Niles. Those who attend can pet animals, including camels, donkeys, sheep and goats from the manger scene. Other actors will be dressed in costume and welcome residents to “Bethlehem.” Hot chocolate and bonfire stations will be available to keep visitors warm. The event is free and open to the public.

Pastor Jared Eckerley said organizers are adding a market area to the ensemble this year. He said the goal of the nativity is to give people a reason to pause and reflect.

“We are such creatures of vision,” Eckerley said. “It is nice to stop for a moment and just visualize what the first Christmas would have been like and what it is all about. It just gets crazy this time of year, but sometimes we have to stop and take a deep breath and look at things the way they are.”

In addition to the animals and nativity scene, a shop with bracelets made by the congregation will be available.

This year will mark the sixth anniversary of the tradition. Generally, about 800 people come out to the event, according to Eckerley.

Without the congregants from Real Life dedicating their time to the event, Eckerley said the nativity would not be able to come together. About 40 to 60 volunteers help out, including participating as actors.

“We have a great group involved. We have soldiers and townspeople in costume. It is a lot of work to put together, but we enjoy it,” he said. “We have a lot of fun as well.”

To help draw attention to the event, volunteers literally light the way to the nativity scene by placing hundreds of luminaries up and down Front Street, leading to the parking lot.

With fair weather in the forecast, Eckerley said he hopes to see a crowd attending the event Sunday.

“It is just a fun event,” Eckerley said. “It is a great way to bring the whole community together.”

Real Life Church meets from 8:15 to 9 a.m. Sundays at the Niles-Buchanan YMCA, 905 N. Front St. Those interested in learning more about the church can visit their website at reallifechurchniles.com.

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