PARRISH — Throughout the year, Parrish United Methodist Church in the heart of Parrish is a hubbub of activity, serving as the place for summer camps and church events. But the Christmas season attracts the largest crowd.
More than 800 people typically pass through 12 scenes of the nativity display Friday and Saturday, which feature live animals and more than 100 church members who participate. It takes all kinds of talents to make a go of the performance, including people who sew, build the sets, paint and put up lighting, said pastor David Misener.
Each year, he hopes people will walk away with deeper understanding about what God did for humanity through the birth of Christ.
“It’s just an amazing production going through 12 aspects of Christ’s birth and the celebration of Christmas,” he said.
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The live nativity isn’t just an outreach to the community, it’s a chance for members to have fun and fellowship, said Karen Bucciarelli, director of youth ministries.
Like any program or play, the live nativity draws laughs from the actors and actresses as well as the crowd.
Throughout the years, there have been mishaps like the sheep escaping their pens and the donkey taking off with Mary on its back, she said.
But even in the midst of all the things that have gone wrong, the real reason for the season touches the hearts of people.
Seeing a baby so sweetly wrapped in a blanket at the manger scene, reminds Bucciarelli that God sent his son in the form of a baby to the earth, she said.
“That is our ultimate prayer is that he will reach out and he will be able to pull them to him,” she said.
This year, Word of Christ International Church in Myakka City is partnering with Parrish United Methodist to perform the live nativity.
Karen Dakin was formerly a member of Parrish United Methodist until she moved to Myakka and began going to Word of Christ International Church. Her family, which owns a dairy, provides animals for the play.
Each year, she said, the church finds other ways to make the play more real to people who attend.
At the end of the program, people are invited to hear the pastor speak about what a relationship with Jesus Christ is all about and can pray for their needs, whether it is health, encouragement or life decisions.
“It’s uniting the body of Christ so we get to come together this time of year to really get into the season,” she said.
“There is really no other way to prepare for what the season is about than to do this, which is all about his birth.”