For nearly a decade, Lamb of God Lutheran Church in Ahwatukee Foothills has offered a unique experience to the biblical story of Christmas right in its “backyard.”

With images projected onto the surrounding rocks of South Mountain and a trek through 100 yards of trails, the live nativity scene has gathered residents by the droves.

“God has placed us in a unique setting, said Pastor Scott Martz. “It’s very much real to Israel, it puts you in the scene.”

This year, according to Martz, the event will be hosted a week later than usual, on Dec. 1. The Bethlehem scene will also be expanded with a projected backdrop, and a new 20-foot-tall screen for video and narration.

“As long as the weather cooperates,” Martz joked.

The live, outdoor nativity scene attracted more than 400 people last year, Martz said, and this year the event will go until 8:30 p.m. to accommodate another turnout of that size. Guests can expect seating areas near the entrance as well as refreshments before taking the tour.

One at a time, groups of about 20 take the tour where they encounter live actors, animals, music, and other features that tell the story of the birth of Jesus.

Wise men are seen trying to find the baby Jesus, to offer gifts, and children are given chocolate wrapped in gold foil as part of the “presents.” The group is then led to the shepherd scene where they hear another narration and then see the large, projected angel on top of the hill.

Finally, the group will watch the long-awaited Bethlehem scene where more animals and special effects will be used this year than ever before.

Although the church is proud to expand the performance element of the event, Martz mentioned the overall goal in mind during the holidays.

“It’s about getting people to think and know what Christmas really is,” Martz said.

The free, outdoor nativity scene will be on Saturday, Dec. 1 from 6 to 8:30 p.m. at Lamb of God Lutheran Church, 599 E. Chandler Blvd.

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