The “COVID Friendly Traveling Live Nativity” will travel the region this month in hopes of spreading Christmas cheer in the region still battling the coronavirus.
Missionaries from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints Idaho Falls Mission plan to oversee the traveling nativity that will be presented at 6 p.m., Dec. 18, at the Church’s Rexburg Temple parking lot.
It will be the final performance of the traveling nativity that is scheduled to start Dec. 3 in Blackfoot with a second performance the following day in Shelley. It will be presented in Iona on Dec. 5 and again on Dec. 9 in Rigby. Idaho Falls residents may watch the live nativity on Dec. 11 and 12. Each performance is scheduled for 15-minute segments from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. The performance will be broadcast in both English and Spanish.
Local missionaries will act out scenes from the New Testament’s Christmas story. Visitors will witness the live nativity from their cars while listening to the performances via their car radios.
Animals mentioned in the bible will also be featured in the traveling nativity.
“There will be two or three camels, sheep and other little barn animals. It’s going to be quite a sight. It’s going to be fun,” said missionary Sister Allison Varney, originally of San Antonio.
Actors portraying the first Christmas family will venture around the parking lot.
“Mary, and Joseph will be walking between the cars making people feel like they’re not isolated, and that they’re part of something. We need more of that in the community especially with everything going on,” she said.
Varney and her missionary companion Sister Rebekah Lipman, of Martinez, California, are advertising the event that will be held in large locations to allow for social distancing.
The nativity will travel “caravan style” to the various communities.
“Our goal is to provide the community with a safe way to celebrate the true meaning of Christmas. Feel the Spirit of Christmas together as you are transported from a time of face masks and social distancing to peaceful, beautiful Bethlehem.” Varney said.
Missionaries from their respective communities will serve as the personalities from the first Christmas.
“They will be angels, wiseman or other characters. We have a ton of costumes donated,” Lipman said.
This is the first time the traveling nativity has been presented in the community.
“The missionaries haven’t ever done this before, and we’re all really excited to do it. It will give a little bit of Christmas cheer,” she said.
With so many traditional events being cancelled, the missionaries say the traveling nativity will offer something fun for residents to attend.
“It’s a great opportunity for families. It could be a date night for young people, or you could go by yourself. The best part about this is that it’s free. Everything we’re doing is for the benefit of the community,” Lipman said.
The holidays should be about hope and joy, she said.
“We don’t want any epidemic getting in the way of that. Everyone will have the opportunity to be close to Christ and to feel a little bit of the Christmas Spirit,” she said.
The traveling nativity is the brainchild of Idaho Falls Mission President Matthew Hurley and his wife Shannon Hurley. The couple and their six children started the tradition while living in Greencastle, Pennsylvania, where the traveling nativity eventually became a Christmas tradition.
“Since moving here to serve a mission, we wanted to share our tradition with our new-found Idaho family. This is a way we thought would allow us to serve the community in return for the warm welcome us and our missionaries have received,” said Matthew Hurley.
Everyone is invited to attend the traveling nativity.
“Bring all you friends and family and have a great time. It’s going to be awesome,” Varney said.
For more information visit @ChurchofJesusChristinIdahoFalls on Facebook and on Instagram at @findingfaithinchrist. A live streamed version of the event will also be posted. Donations of non-perishable food will also be accepted and taken to local food banks.