Rather than being made up of wood or plastic figures, a live nativity set features real people and animals instead. These presentations tend to attract visitors from the local community as well as from other areas in the vicinity.
Some live nativity sets have people posing in static positions, while some installations include actors that move about, talk or sing.
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Actors for your church nativity set
The cast for a live nativity scene can be as small as just Mary and the baby Jesus, or may include Mary's husband Joseph, to complete the Holy Family. Many live nativity scenes include dozens of people. Additional roles to fill include the owner of the inn—who indicated that there was no room at the inn and turned Joseph and Mary away when she was about to go into labor—as well as shepherds and angels. Wise men can also be present, although the Biblical account suggests they did not historically arrive in time for the first Christmas.
Actors for the DIY Christmas nativity should be volunteers from the church who create and dress up in costumes appropriate to the time period represented in the production. If the live nativity scene will be staged for more than a couple of hours at a time, actors should rotate every hour or two so they do not get tired. If it's an outdoor nativity scene in cold weather, the actors should wear warm clothing beneath the costumes and have a warm area to rest as needed. Hot chocolate is another way to warm up when they're off duty, and the visitors to your Christmas event may enjoy some, too.
Make sure the actors are comfortable in the setting no matter what the weather. Give them time for breaks every hour or so.
Live nativity scene setting
Churches that plan live nativity displays often create the scene on church property. A location that is visible from a busy street will attract the most attention from people who drive through the area. Stack bales of hay around the scene to set it apart from the surrounding landscape. Use light displays such as luminaries in containers that won't tip to light a walking path or drive-thru path to the holiday event.
Set up a lighted star above the scene to symbolize the Star of Bethlehem, illuminate the area and attract attention. If the church is located in a rural area, consider setting up the nativity set in a real stable. Christmas lights near a lighted sign help illuminate the entrance to the church driveway for an out-of-the-way location.
Special authentic touches
If possible, borrow animals from a local farmer to include in the live nativity scene for an outdoor display. The stable where Jesus was born might have contained sheep, cattle, donkeys or camels. If you're using live animals, try to keep them in the background so they do not draw too much attention from Jesus.
Live animals such as sheep add an authentic touch to the nativity scene.
Have all the actors in the nativity scene focus their eyes and attention on Jesus in the manger, front and center. A successful live nativity may take place on multiple days throughout the Christmas season, or even just on the days leading up to Christmas eve.
All in all, make the nativity scene as enjoyable as possible for the actors, any animals and the guests visiting throughout the holiday season. Enjoy taking a step back and taking in the scene depicting this very special day.