31 Years of Christmas Alive

The first performance of Christmas Alive, a nighttime outdoor nativity drama and musical performed on the oak tree-covered front lawn of West University Methodist Church, was December 1986 under the leadership of founding director, Laura Elwood.  The weather that night was freezing and it had been sleeting, but the show went on complete with an angel children’s choir that looked like Pillsbury doughboys because they had on so many layers of clothes under their costumes!

Annual Christmas Alive performances, complete with costumed Mary, Joseph, Baby Jesus, shepherds, kings, angels and live animals and music, have continued and become a much-anticipated tradition.  Christmas Alive is the church’s gift to West University and surrounding communities that inspires people to sense the sacredness of the Advent season. 

christmas_alive_2010_camel.jpegThere is a cast, crew and support team of about 100 people to make the performance happen each year. Animals include a donkey, camel, sheep, goats and an occasional llama!  The block of University Street in front of the church (from Edloe to Mercer) is closed to traffic and chairs are placed in the street.  There are 2 performances with an average of 300 audience members at each.  Hot wassail is served (or occasionally cold apple cider if the temperature is over 80 degrees!)

Many church families have fond memories of their children (some now grown adults!) portraying baby Jesus or other rites of passage from the elementary school angel choir, middle school shepherds and high school Wise men and Angels.  There have even been a few times baby Jesus has actually been the son or daughter (yes, baby Jesus is sometimes a girl!) of the person performing as Mary or Joseph.  Christmas Alive is a wonderful intergenerational outreach for our church and in addition to the children there are also adult shepherd singers, narrators, Happy Birthday Jesus party coordinators, set up, lights, stable builders, wassail servers, ushers and lots of other behind the scenes people.

angel-choir.jpgMemorable moments of the performance include wiggly, slanted tinsel-haloed children angels, interesting live animals’ noises, baby Jesus enjoying the modern conveniences of a pacifier or baby bottle and the wisemen walking up with a giant camel.  But perhaps the most people’s favorite part of Christmas Alive is the grand finale of each performance when all of the actors, readers, crew and audience lift their joyful voices together to fill the night air with the beautiful words of the Christmas hymn Silent Night.  Now it officially feels like Christmas.

Thanks to all who have assisted with West University Methodist’s Christmas Alive tradition over the years.