NAUVOO - With the madness of the gift-giving and gift-receiving season setting in, it can be difficult to remember the true meaning of Christmas, so Three Springs Ministries shares the story in a very real way.
Three Springs began putting on a live Nativity musical drama about 18 years ago on a much smaller scale, Jeff Rush, founder and director, said in an email. At the time, it primarily was presented by the youth group that met weekly at Three Springs Ministries.
"We believe that we have the opportunity to portray the greatest story of all time," Rush said. "The birth of the son of God, Jesus."
He explained that more and more people in the United State do not know the story.
"We certainly see this and understand the cultural changes in our work with thousands of youth throughout the year," Rush said. "It is also true, however, of adults as well. It is a story filled with true drama, miracles and all kinds of unexpected twists and turns."
Rather than people just hearing the story read to them, every two years, Three Springs Ministries immerses people in the story by also using their sense of sight, sound, smell and touch.
No artificial lighting is used. In order to create the desired atmosphere, lantern light, campfire and torches are used. Many animals also are used - donkeys, sheep, horses, goats and this year, a camel.
"We receive many comments from guests that it is a very meaningful thing to experience at Christmas," Rush said. "Especially as our culture has secularized this very special and authentic meaning of Christmas."
The show takes about 45 minutes and is more than just seeing a Nativity scene.
"It is an entire dramatization, where guests interact with the arriving magi," Rush said. "See King Herod 'grill' them with questions, walk through Bethlehem and then find themselves in a lantern-lit stable, where a young couple are dealing with the birth of their special son."
More than 150 people are involved with the Live Nativity. Most are youth and families from Oregon Hill Grace Chapel, as well as the staff of Three Springs Ministry.
"Most are in character and in costume as they populate a replicated village of Bethlehem," Rush said. "There are, of course, Mary and Joseph, shepherds, angels and an innkeeper impatiently announcing 'There's no more room!' There is a caravan of easterners who arrive with a team of real horses pulling a wagon and leading a camel. There are Roman guards on horseback controlling the crowds. And there are, of course, many behind-the-scenes people as well, keeping all the campfires stocked with wood, torches burning and refreshments stocked."
Because of the high level of commitment necessary for all involved, the scene is done every two years.
"The importance of understanding the story of the birth of Christ is more important than
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ever," Rush said. "... It has become a Christmas traditional for many families in the Northern Tier."
There is no charge for the event and, other than organized groups who want to see it as a group, reservations are not needed.
Each show accommodates 160 people and color-coded tickets are handed out as people arrive for their desired show. If the show fills up, additional guests are asked to wait in the heated activity building until the next show.
"The other challenging thing can be weather disruptions," Rush said. "We try to go forward regardless of weather conditions. After all, Many and Joseph did!"
About 1,200 people attended the event over the three nights it was shown two years ago. This year, they are preparing for 1,500.
The shows will be held at 5:30, 6:30, 7:30 and 8:30 p.m. Dec. 14 to 16. Organized groups can make reservations for the 5:30 p.m. show any night by calling 353-2155.
"We encourage folks to dress warm," Rush said.
Three Springs Ministry is located near the village of Nauvoo, seven miles west of the Liberty/Morris exit of Route 15.