Live Nativity at Meridian Church

Last year, more than 1,400 visitors enjoyed the Meridian (Idaho) Church sixth annual drive-through, live nativity from the warmth of their vehicles or by parking and walking.

Church members spend months preparing for each year’s event: sewing new costumes, building new sets, painting old sets, and collecting and making realistic props.

Students from Boise Valley Adventist School, Gem State Adventist Academy and Walla Walla College joined church members as actors in the scenes to bring to life the story of the birth of Christ.

As visitors enter Bethlehem, they are met by Roman soldiers and given two pennies to use to buy goods from the marketplace or to give to the beggars running through the streets. One of the beggars was overhead to say, “No, no, ma’am. You don’t have to give me a dollar. I’m just begging for pennies. You can have this back. You don’t want it back? Okay!” The little beggars helped collect more than $700 in donations.

In Bethlehem, the census-taker greets each carload of visitors, who are next greeted by the carpenter with samples of his handiwork for their inspection. Next comes the marketplace filled with baskets, pottery, candlesticks, various food items and other necessities. Caleb Agee, a Gem State Adventist Academy sophomore, was the vivacious merchant, bouncing from car to car, offering samples of his finest bread from his bakery to anyone who would accept.

Visitors encounter Mary, seated on a donkey named Whoopsie, and Joseph, trying to obtain a room at the inn. Next comes the stable scene, where visitors can pet a cow, sheep, goats and another donkey named Babe.

As visitors continue their journey, they see the angels as they appear to the shepherds with their sheep. They also see the temple where Anna and Simeon finally saw the Christ Child when He was brought before the high priest.

The final scene, and the one that attracts the most attention, is the wise men with their live camel, Clyde. Clyde’s owner, Gary Drake, and his daughter, members of the local community, volunteered their time to participate in the live nativity.

On the way out, visitors are serenaded with Christmas music played by the Resounding Brass ensemble, based at the Nampa (Idaho) Church and made up of members from various Adventist churches, including Meridian.

Each year, the live nativity attracts more and more people, many of whom are return visitors. One woman, who came alone two years ago, returned last year and brought her entire Girl Scout troop with her. Two years in a row, local television stations came out and broadcast the event on the nightly newscast.

Plans for this year’s live nativity include more extensive advertising and refurbishing existing scenes, as well as sewing additional costumes and streamlining the lighting for fewer power outages, which has been a problem in the past.

Anyone who would like more information on this program can contact the Meridian Church at P.0. Box 297, Meridian, ID 83680; (208) 888-7171;

November 01, 2003 / Idaho Conference