The Christmas story came to life during Christmas in the Park, a collaborative drive-thru live nativity held at Kutztown Park on Dec. 20.
“The purpose of the event was to safely come together as a community to offer our community some hope as we shared the good news of the Christmas story,” said Pastor Adam Roberts of Grace Church. “Our community really needs hope right now. People are struggling with fear and anxiety. There's a lot of sickness and loss as well as financial pressure, relational strain, and more. The birth of Jesus reminds us that we're not alone and that God has come to us and for us.”
Pastor MaryAnn Hamm of St John’s Lutheran in Kutztown was the organizer of the event.
“The purpose of our Nativity in the Park was to share the good news of the birth of Jesus with the community,” said Hamm. “Because many of our churches are closed due to COVID, we thought this would be a safe way for folks to see and hear the gospel.”
All of the churches in Kutztown were invited to participate. St. John’s Lutheran, St. Paul’s UCC, Grace, Trinity and St. Mary’s created the scenes of the story of Jesus’ birth.
“We followed COVID restrictions by people remaining in their cars and to keep their windows up. We utilized people from the same household for our various scenes, wherever possible and encouraged distancing whenever not possible,” said Roberts.
Approved by Kutztown Borough Council in advance, the Borough opened Kutztown Park for this event only from 3 to 5 p.m. Attendees stayed in their cars, driving from the Laurel Street entrance to Kemp Street.
“All actors wore masks, and scenes were spread out to socially distance one another. We asked cars to keep their windows closed as well,” said Hamm.
From their cars, the community saw and heard live displays from local churches, telling the story of Jesus’ birth, including Mary and Joseph on the Journey, Angels, Shepherds and Sheep, The Inn and the Inn Keeper, The Magi and the Star, and The Stable with the Holy Family.
“We were honored to participate in the event. There have been so many worries and limitations due to COVID-19 and many churches are not able to meet in person. It was inspiring that the churches were able to work together virtually to plan a safe, free, meaningful family event,” said Pastor Kim Adamson of St. Paul’s UCC Kutztown. “I think we all needed a little bit of Christmas! We are also excited with the prospects of this being an annual event that will include more churches, and expand the journey to Bethlehem to include more activities and settings.”
Her favorite part of the event was seeing the beauty and creativity each church used in creating their scenes.
“There was an atmosphere of joy and wonder as the hundreds of cars traveled slowly through the park to support and enjoy the event,” said Adamson.
Hamm said that the response from the community was overwhelming. There was a steady stream of cars for two hours with a total estimate of 300 or more cars.
“There were many families and smiles on children and adults alike,” said Hamm. “It truly was an amazing afternoon.”
Roberts said that the event was well received.
“There was a seemingly endless stream of vehicles through the park from the time it started until it ended,” said Roberts. “We were so pleased that our community came out and we hope that people felt some hope and peace in the midst of the chaos that we've all experienced in 2020. I'm hoping that the local churches will do this again in 2021 because Grace Church would love to be part of it again.”
Hamm said there are plans to host this event again.
“We look forward to expanding this event in future years,” said Hamm.
A grant from Thrivent Financial covered the cost of advertising.
“We would especially like to thank Brian from the Borough and Police Chief Craig Summers for their cooperation in helping remove snow from the park, and direct traffic,” said Hamm.
Another community endeavor that is currently active is the Kutztown Christmas Exchange.
“Since we are not able to sing in church, we invited a variety of musicians and vocalists from Kutztown and Berks County to participate in the Exchange,” said Adamson. “It is a YouTube channel that is sharing Christmas music with the local churches as well as anyone who would like to view them or use them.”
Most of the videos were produced by VideoWorks in Mount Penn who donated their services. The Exchange also includes Trinity Lutheran Church’s Interactive Christmas Prayer Stations and the drive-thru Christmas in the Park will be added once videos have been edited. The Little Drummer Boy is the most popular video with more than 500 views.
View the Exchange at https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC-pNeEJFINMTYYERkS4BYaQ .