07 Oct, 2020 Story – Nativity Float
United Levin Churches – Nativity Float
With the focus on unity and returning Christ to Christmas, Levin has modelled an amazing opportunity for annual Christmas Parades around New Zealand.
The ‘Wow Factor’
In 2019, the Levin Christian Churches worked together to bring a real life, walking nativity story to their annual Christmas Parade.
Levin locals Pam Robinson and Andrew Sinclair attend different churches in the town and saw a gospel opportunity when the Levin Christian Churches walked the parade together in 2018, giving out flyers and lollipops.
“We had the idea to work together as churches to bring a ‘wow factor’ by showing that Jesus is the reason for Christmas. Our aim was to present a visual experience of the Nativity story. So, we talked together about what it would take to pull it off.”
The first step was to set clear goals of what they were trying to achieve:
“There is so much potential with these sorts of events, so we kept our goals clear and simple: We wanted to bless our town by communicating the good news about Jesus and show that he is central to the Christmas story. We wanted to show the unity across churches in Levin as we shared the same message together.”
The Intriguing Design
A walking Nativity with a real donkey, several sheep, horses, actors as Mary, Joseph and Jesus, angels walking on stilts, shepherds, and wise men wasn’t something the group had ever done before. So, they started conversations to check if it was even a viable option. After asking around, finding a ‘parade-proof donkey’ was the only major puzzle piece that required looking outside of the local community.
Once they had made progress on the hard-to-find pieces for the parade, they put the call out, first to the local pastors and then to the churches: “We couldn’t pull this off without the help and enthusiasm of our church communities.” A committee was formed to plan out the details—the costumes, safety, and logistics.
A graphic designer helped them make large signs for people to carry to describe the different elements of the story, and work in with the theme: “The parade theme was ‘ugly Christmas sweater’, so the signs gave us a way of meeting the brief without having angels in ugly sweaters!”
The group used five signs to narrate the story:
- “God said Mary would have a special baby. He would be called Jesus because he will save his people from their sins.”
- “Angels told shepherds the good news, Jesus the Saviour is born.”
- “The Shepherds went to see the baby, Jesus the Saviour, Messiah.”
- “Wise men travelled to see him, and when they saw Jesus they worshipped him.”
- “You are to give him the name Jesus for he will save his people from their sins.”
Seeing real animals and people dressed as the different characters was a major highlight for those watching the parade, even the designated ‘pooper scoopers’ walking behind the horses got a great response from the crowd! Following along after the walking Nativity was a group of volunteers representing Levin Christian Churches, handing out lollipops and a booklet about the life of Jesus.
“Our prayer is that people in our community would be blessed by seeing that Christmas is all about Jesus, and we hope that they will see their need of Jesus and put their trust in him.”
Your turn? (top tips to plan your own event)
- Set clear aims and boundaries:
“Being up front about what we were aiming for and how we were going to go about it helped participants from a range of different churches to feel safe in knowing what they were (and weren’t!) signing up for. It’s important to keep the main thing the main thing when working with diverse churches. Being clear about what flyers people are handing out, for example, means people can confidently participate and know they won’t accidentally endorse something they disagree with.”
- Seek the support of key leaders:
“If key leaders and pastors don’t support an idea then asking congregations to support it will be much harder. Consider which details key leaders and pastors will want to know and give advance notice.”
- Don’t let looking good get in the way of safety:
“From the planning stage we made it clear to the group that we would pull out or make major adjustments if we weren’t sure we could be safe. For example, in choosing to include horses we discussed potential issues with the parade organisers and asked that we be spaced apart from the honking fire engines and other noisy cars, as these would spook the animals.”
- Lead prayerfully:
“Pray and ask for God to use your involvement to reach people in your community. Holidays like Christmas and Easter represent historically significant Christian events and people are often open to including contributions from Christians. Ask for God’s help to equip you to reach your community.”
Story by Andrew Sinclair