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Sequoia Heights offers free yearly tradition

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Shown is a scene from last year’s Sequoia Heights Baptist Church’s drive-thru nativity.

HIME ROMERO/Bulletin file photo

POSTED December 12, 2013 1:24 a.m.

Jesus didn’t have to worry about a cold spell.

But Jesus also didn’t have space heaters.

Come Friday, when Sequoia Heights Baptist Church rolls out its annual drive thru living nativity for a two-night stand that will draw as many as 500 cars and 1,500 people, four volunteers will trade-off what is arguably the most important of the eight scenes – Jesus of Nazareth nailed to a cross, dying for the sins of all mankind.

But the temperature is slated to drop drastically when the sun goes down, and those that climb up on the pre-cast footholds sunk into a life-sized cross won’t be wearing much more than a single sheet and a crown of thorns.

But that’s what the event, says 22-year Sequoia Heights Pastor Mark Mahaffie, is all about.

“For many people it’s a tradition to come down – a way for them to kickoff their Christmas season,” he said. “But about half of the people that we get that come through are first-timers that are new to the community and are just finding out about it.

“It’s a chance to tell, from our perspective – from the Bible’s perspective – the real story of Christmas and the season and the birth of our savoir Jesus Christ.”

The drive-thru nativity will be held on Friday, Dec. 13, and Saturday, Dec. 14, from 6 to 9 p.m. at Sequoia Heights Baptist Church, located at 1050 S. Union Road – on the corner on Union Road and Wawona Drive.

In a world that grows increasingly commercial each and every year, Mahaffie said that offering the life-sized scenes that depict Christ’s life – from the original prophesy all the way through his resurrection – is a way to focus back to the real reason for Christmas as provide a service to the residents of the community that have been supporting the endeavor for nearly two decades.

Putting it together, however, takes preparation.

Several times the event has been rained out – a testament to the unpredictable winter weather in the Northern San Joaquin Valley – and the ever-present possibility of high-winds mean that the backing panels themselves have to be as light as possible and allow air to pass through freely so they “don’t become a kite.”

Mahaffie says that the organizers are cognizant of the fact that families do return year-after-year and they try to make small changes to the lineup that will keep the experience fresh without sacrificing the core elements of the story.

It takes upwards of 90 volunteers each night to put the presentation together. Some positions – like Jesus on the cross – will take as many as four people working in 50 minute shifts in order to pull it off successfully.

You won’t find Santa. You won’t find a snowman. But if you’re looking for John the Baptist or the Three Wise Men, they’ll be tucked in somewhere to tell the story of the birth of the man commonly dubbed “the reason for the season.”

“Some places still promote Christ in Christmas, but a lot of places it just doesn’t seem to be a priority anymore – it’s a chance for time off of work or school or a chance to spend time with family,” he said. “All of those things are great, but if it was my birthday, I’d want to be recognized.”

Sequoia Heights Baptist Church – located at 1050 S. Union Road – will host the 18th annual Drive-Thru Living Nativity on Friday, Dec. 13, and Saturday, Dec. 14, from 6 to 9 p.m. The church is located on the corner of Union Road and Wawona Drive. To get there from Highway 99, take the Highway 120 Bypass exit towards San Francisco and exit at Union Road. Turn right and the church will be up the street on the right.

Friday thru Sunday

: Calvary Community Church will present a musical concert, “The Gifts of Christmas” Dec. 13-15. Starting with an indoor light parade, “The Gifts of Christmas” combines musical numbers with scripture readings to retell the story of the birth of Jesus. This family friendly program will be presented Friday, Dec. 13, at 7 p.m., Saturday, Dec. 14 at 6 p.m., and Sunday, Dec. 15, at 2 p.m. Admission is free; however, childcare will not be available. For more information, contact Calvary Community Church at 209.239.1345, 815 W. Lathrop Rd, Manteca.


: Lathrop’s holiday parade is Saturday, Dec. 14, at 11 a.m. More than 40 parade entries will start on J Street, work their way onto 5th Street and slowly wind past the crowds of onlookers and families before ending at Mingo Way. The awards will be presented immediately following inside of the Scott Brooks Gymnasium at the Lathrop Community Center.


: It might be cold outside, but it’ll be nice and toasty inside of the Scott Brooks Gymnasium on Saturday, Dec. 14, at 6:30 p.m. when the community gathers to flip the switch on the community Christmas tree and formally welcome the holiday season to the community.

Saturday, Dec. 21

: Golden Bough is returning to Manteca on Saturday, Dec. 21, at 7:30 p.m. at St. Paul’s United Methodist Church at North Street and Powers Avenue as part of the Manteca Kindred Arts’ concert series. Tickets at the door are $15 each for adults, $5 each for anyone under 18 years of age.

Tuesday, Dec. 24

: Phil Waterford’s Manteca Ford at 555 North Main Street will host their 5th consecutive free Christmas Eve Breakfast on Tuesday, Dec. 24, from 8 to 11 a.m. The first 500 children, 12 and under will receive an unwrapped toy and a chance to meet Santa. Last year there were approximately 800 people in attendance. The Manteca Walgreens will be on site offering the gift of health with free flu shots from 8 to 11 a.m. For more information call 239-3561.

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