Lamb of God Lutheran Church in Ahwatukee Foothills will once again be sharing the story of the nativity through use of its outdoor nature trail.
The church's seventh annual live outdoor nativity is slated for Saturday, Nov. 27 and viewers will have the opportunity to go on a guided tour and experience the story, according to Pastor Scott Martz, who said the church uses projections of animated animals, including camels and sheep, to offer a way of seeing the different animals that were present during the nativity.
"Children think they are real," he said, adding that the path is lined with live action shepherds, wise men, angels, Mary, Joseph and the baby Jesus.
Once through the trail event-goers are greeted with refreshments and Christmas carols, in which they are welcomed to sing along to.
Martz said the theme throughout the nativity walk is "Make your way to Bethlehem."
Victoria Wadsworth, a sophomore at Desert Vista High School and four-year veteran of the live nativity, will be continuing her role of an angel this year and is looking forward to participating.
"I like helping out my church," Wadsworth said.
Katherine Bogushefsky-Reemer, an Ahwatukee Foothills resident and Lamb of God church member, said the live nativity is a fun event and something the whole church can get involved in.
"It's a nice event to attend," she said.
The use of the church's projected animals is what Martz says makes the nativity unique and different from the rest. Stemming from an accidental discovery of how to light up a nearby hillside with a projector, the church opted to take the projection idea to the next level and figured out how to project animations of the animals throughout the land that surrounds the church.
The first live outdoor nativity was set up in their booth at the Festival of Lights several years ago. However, about three years later, Martz said the church chose to move the event to its property, a former rock quarry, in order to create a larger experience.
"This is a unique site," he said.
To add to the uniqueness of the property, Martz said Elroy Bartsel, a church member and volunteer who is a set builder by trade, built numerous scenes and props along the trail.
Rachel Martz, a freshman at Arizona Lutheran Academy, will be playing the role of Mary and admitted that although she is a little nervous, she is looking forward to this year's event.
"I always have fun with it," she said.
Martz said over the years the number of participants has grown, and last year they had around 250 people attend. This year, he said they are hoping to double this number.
"Five hundred or 600 people would be great," he said.
When asked if being located down the road from the Festival of Lights on the same day hinders the live nativity's attendance, Martz said he doesn't think so.
"We think it helps it," he said, adding that every year the church has a booth at the Festival of Lights and volunteers in costume to pass out fliers.
Martz added that since the live nativity starts at the tail end of the Festival of Lights he believes it's a good way to extend the evening and continue with the holiday celebration.
The live outdoor nativity at Lamb of God Lutheran Church, 599 E. Chandler Blvd., is a free, family-friendly event from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. The church is located one-fourth-of-a-mile from Desert Foothills Park, 1010 Marketplace Way SW, where the Festival of Lights will be going on from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.
To learn more about the outdoor nativity, visit www.myLambofGod.org.
Chelsea Brown is interning this semester for the Ahwatukee Foothills News. She is a senior at Arizona State University.