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Sequoia Heights Baptist event continues tonight

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Actors performs scene from the Life of Jesus as cars drive by during Friday’s opening night for the Sequoia Heights Baptist drive thru nativity.

HIME ROMERO/The Bulletin

POSTED December 8, 2012 2:21 a.m.

David Gomez slowly inched his SUV past the active and ornate scenes before him.

There was Joseph and Mary in the manger. There was Jesus being baptized by his cousin John. And further up there was the iconic scene – Jesus Christ, arms sprawled out on the cross with Roman soldiers all around him – most people recognize as the crucifixion.

The catch was these weren’t painted scenes. They weren’t statues. They were actual people – nearly 100 parishioners of Sequoia Heights Baptist Church – that brought the scenes of the life of Christ to life right before the eyes of hundreds of people that filtered through the church’s parking lot.

They call it the Living Nativity. And in the eyes of Pastor Mark Mahaffie, it’s a wonderful opportunity to refocus on the true meaning of the Christmas season.

“It’s a way to combat the secular part of the Christmas story and bring back the truth about Christ – why he came to bring us God’s love, and why God offered us salvation through his son,” Mahaffie said. “And people really enjoy it. I talked to a family earlier that said it was their tradition to come every year.

“We also get a lot of people that see it as they’re passing by and wonder what it is so they stop in. Everybody is welcome.”

And after nearly two decades of turning the church parking lot into an event that has become a community staple, Mahaffie and the rest of the church crew have the set-up and the organization down pat.

On Monday they started to pull out the painted scenes that they used for the last two years – the theme, which this year is a CSI-based investigative approach to the story of Christ, changes every three years – and spent most of the day Friday putting them up and laying out the route that cars take in and through the nine-panel view.

With sunshine expected throughout the weekend, Mahaffie and the rest of the volunteers aren’t going to have to break everything down and put it back up the following day like they have in the past. But while logistics might seem like they’re a lot to handle, those who participate are more than willing to be a part of the experience.

“I just like participating with the other people of the church,” said Russ Baugh – who played Joseph on the first crew of volunteers that spent 90 minutes bringing the panels to life. “It’s great to be a part of the celebration. You don’t really get that Christmas perspective until you’re in the living nativity, and this time of year you have people that are down and hopefully this lifts their spirits up and gives them some light.”

Vern Krenz – who played John the Baptist – was equally enthusiastic about sharing his faith with others.

“If one person can come to know Christ, then all of this was worth it,” he said. “We have people that try to offer donations as they drive out and we respectfully decline – they have tears in their eyes. It’s touching.

“It’s all God. It’s all about him – not what we do here.”

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