FAITH Nativity

Elmer the donkey greets people during a past Living Nativity at the First United Methodist Church in Hermiston. This year’s event is Dec. 14-15.

HERMISTON — A labor of love that shares the biblical story of Jesus’ birth has become a holiday tradition — both for those involved with the Living Nativity as well as community members who come to enjoy the presentation.

In its 27th year, the Hermiston First United Methodist Church coordinates the event, which features everyone from the smallest angels to stately kings. More than half of the church’s congregation gets involved, said Pastor Patty Nance.

The Living Nativity is Saturday, Dec. 14 from 6-8 p.m. and Sunday, Dec. 15 from 4-6 p.m. at the Hermiston United Methodist Church, 191 E. Gladys Ave. The presentation is held outdoors, so people should dress accordingly.

Becky Hunt has spearheaded the event for more than a decade. She said it provides an opportunity to share her faith with others.

“It has been Becky’s passion to make sure this happens every year,” Nance said. “She has done such an amazing job with it.”

Hunt’s enthusiasm has no bounds. While walking her dog at the Eastern Oregon Trade and Event Center, a little white pony caught Hunt’s eye.

“I ran across Al Davis and I told him, ‘That pony would be great in my Living Nativity.’”

So, barring extreme weather, the little pony will join the show, Hunt said. In addition, other animals include sheep and donkeys from Tom and Karin Watson of Silverdale Farms, and Jeremy Kile is bringing chickens.

“The animals are really a bit hit,” Hunt said. “In a way, there’s a petting zoo. We encourage the kids to feed them and touch them.”

Hunt is thrilled that community members are so willing to help. And people that attend other churches also are involved with the effort year after year.

“It’s a beautiful story — for those that know the story, it’s nice to hear it again,” Hunt said. “And for others, we can teach them about what we believe and that Jesus is all about love.”

In addition to people and animals, there are storyboards that provide information about the scenes. Visitors are invited to linger as long as they like, Hunt said.

“There’s no rush,” she said. “We want people to soak it in.”

Nance said children and adults learn in different ways. The Living Nativity, she said, allows people to see things, read information and touch animals.

Afterward, people are invited to enter the church to warm up and enjoy cookies and hot beverages. Also, Nance said it provides a chance for fellowship with one another.

“It’s a wonderful way for people to get to know each other,” she said. “It really encourages intergenerational communication — you don’t always have that opportunity.”

Hunt invites people who want to help with moving straw bales and other tasks to a set-up event Saturday at 9:30 a.m. For more information, call Hunt at 541-314-5797 or the church at 541-567-3002.

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Contact Community Editor Tammy Malgesini at tmalgesini@eastoregonian.com or 541-564-4539.

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