The Santa Clarita United Methodist Church once again hosted its ‘Living Nativity” scene on Sunday, which featured biblical scenes that attendees could view from the comfort of their cars.
As per the event’s trademark, each of the three scenes had live actors standing in as characters from the nativity. The first scene was of the Bethlehem Inn, the second was of the angels appearing to the shepherds, and the third was of the manger.
Rachel Tabutol, pastor at United Methodist, said having a live scene is a better way to tell the story of Jesus’ birth as it does a better job of connecting with people than pictures do.
“We think that it gives the people that are experiencing the drive-through an opportunity to feel like they’re more enmeshed in the story,” said Tabutol. “When you just see pictures it’s a little bit different than when you see people standing there and acting the roles, and so often the living nativity scene that I’ve seen just has this one last scene and we’d like to tell more of the story. So it gives the opportunity to learn more of the story and not just the standard scene that everyone knows.”
Although the event has been done by the church for decades, Tabutol said it still takes months to plan and many volunteers are necessary to make it happen.
“We spent months preparing for this by taking signups, making sure we have all the right volunteers and then we have an amazing dedicated group that spent the week before setting up all of the scenes, making sure that the lights are in the right place that all of our actors are in spotlight so that you can see them as you drive through,” said Tabutol.
As times have changed, so has the way the church means to bring the nativity scene into a person’s car. The drive-through is accompanied by an audio track that used to be on a CD that attendees could play through their car. But as more and more cars are being built without a CD player, United Methodist has improvised.
The accompanying audio to the show is also now provided through a USB stick or a QR code that users can scan – which takes them to a previously uploaded YouTube video that plays the tracks.
“We try to provide a variety of different ways because a lot of people are saying or transitioning from CD players in their cars,” said Tabutol. “I do everything on Bluetooth so I was like, ‘If you can give me a way to give it to me via Bluetooth, I’d be super excited.’ So that’s what we did.”
Tabutol also said one of the keys to making the show run smoothly was switching out the actors periodically. They don’t always “act” out a scene and are sometimes so still, they could be mistaken for statues. This could take a toll, so for every actor in every scene there also needs to be a double.
Warren Tabutol, an actor in the event and Rachel’s husband, said standing still for so long can provide its challenges.
“I’m more of the fidgety type of person so yeah, I wish we were more of a moving living nativity,” said Warren. “[But] it’s a good time and you know, it gets the community out and about and it’s something that people get to experience.”
Warren said community engagement was one of the most important reasons for holding the event.
“The community outreach, the giving back to the community and letting them know we’re here. People seem to enjoy it,” said Warren.