PORTAGE | Portage police directed traffic on Lute Road as cars streamed into Miller’s Senior Living to see the gospels of Luke and Matthew come alive.
Nearly 500 cars participated in a drive-thru live nativity, courtesy of the residential facility and Grace Church of the Nazarene.
As Christmas music sounded from loudspeakers, 10 scenes from the two gospels depicted the story of Christ’s birth on the lawn surrounding the facility.
Church members in costumes with live camels, goats, donkeys and sheep populated the scenes, which included Caesar Augustus’s decree for a census, shepherds tending their flocks, and Mary and Joseph with Jesus in the manger, visited by the Wise Men.
“Oh, that is beautiful, look!” said Sharon Rodriquez, of Lake Station, at the scene with two Romans fanning Caesar Augustus.
Rodriquez rode in a car with her friend, Martha Best. It was the first time both women had seen the spectacle.
Miller’s community relations director Gwen Kiser said the partnership with the church was born four years ago. The church was considering discontinuing its live nativity at its Clem Road location, which Kiser said is inconveniently “tucked out of the mainstream.”
Kiser proposed the church move its event to Miller’s grounds, which she said proved more accessible to cars.
“I think this partnership has breathed new life into it,” Kiser said. “It’s been wonderful for the church and wonderful for us and the community.”
Bryan McBride, 19, of Portage, played the role of a shepherd in front of a campfire, while the angel, Amanda Ashford, 20, “appeared” to him while he tended his three black sheep and two donkeys.
“A lot of people like this,” McBride said. “They think it’s really cool and a great thing to experience.”
Ashford, whose “entire family” has a role in the Nativity, has been in the Nativity scene for the past 10 years.
“We do it every year ... I love it,” said Ashford, who plays a new role each year. “I love being different people in the story.”
Kiser said people want to “participate in the meaning of Christmas.”
“This is what it’s all about,” Kiser said. “A testament to that is the number of people who drive through and experience the wonder.”