PITTSBURG — From beeswax to carved wood, hundreds of nativity scenes in all shapes and sizes from all over the world will be exhibited at the church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
The church’s free nativity scene festival will be from 5 to 9 p.m. on Friday and 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Saturday. Cookies and cider will be served during the event and there will also be a children’s room with crafts and activities.
Each nativity scene celebrates the birth of Jesus. He’s shown as a baby in a manger with his family and the “wise men” or shepherds. Sometimes angels, animals and others surround him.
When the church began their nativity scene festival they had approximately 125 sets of nativity scenes — four years later it’s tripled in size.
Where do all of these sets come from?
Approximately 130 of them are from Nativity Festival Coordinator Gayla Mendenhall’s collection. When her parents found out that she and the nativity festival committee were going to put on the first event they went to garage sales and managed to find 30 sets for her to use and her collection grew from there.
The other 200-something sets came from church members, not just from Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints but several other churches in the area — PittNaz, St. John Lutheran Church, Our Lady of Lords, Beulah Community Church and Cornerstone Christian Church.
“It means a lot to me that people want to share in the love of Jesus Christ and want to make it beautiful for the community,” Mendenhall said. “As far as the members of the community loaning the nativities, it brings a lot of joy to me that we all worship the same Jesus Christ and we all appreciate his birth and life and that we may have slightly different religious views but he’s still the same Jesus Christ.”
Various people from the churches and across the community loaned their sets for the week to celebrate together.
“It’s really just our chance to share our love of Jesus Christ and how grateful we are for him coming to Earth for our salvation and show our appreciation for the Christmas Spirit,” Mendenhall said. “It’s more than just gifts and Santa, it’s Jesus Christ coming to Earth and his humble birth.
“It’s one of the most iconic images that you can see of the life and death of Jesus Christ, his birth.”
Mendenhall mentioned that they are not the only church in town who is doing a nativity scene festival. Countryside Christian Church is hosting a nativity scene reenactment called the Journey to Bethlehem where people can walk through different scenes portrayed by their church members. Countryside’s event will be from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. Saturday and Sunday at their church.