Nativity Performed for Friends, Community in Las Vegas
By Marianne Holman, Church News staff writer
In a town famous for its bright lights and shows, members of the Las Vegas Nevada Redrock Stake joined with others of their community to present a live depiction of one of the most important events in all of history—the birth of the Savior Jesus Christ.
“The whole experience is made to help prepare others to feel the Spirit,” said Karen Thomas, director of the presentation titled “The Nativity.”
Church members in the area have been performing “The Nativity” for more than 20 years, but it has been in the last three years that they have become partners with a local organization to make it a community event.
“It has been carefully crafted,” Sister Thomas said. “People have come from soccer practice and Christmas shopping and other busy parts of life, and we have tried to remove the distractions and soften the spirit so that when the soundtrack starts, they are ready to feel and see. It is wonderful.”
“The Nativity” is a 25-minute performance acting out the words found in the Bible—strictly scripture—recounting the Savior’s birth. Included in the event is a recorded narrative of scripture and Christmas hymns sung by the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. Actors portrayed Mary and Joseph traveling to Bethlehem, angelic manifestations, and visits from the shepherds and three kings. The presentation included live animals.
“We wanted to keep the verbiage pure,” Sister Thomas said. “It is the pure story straight from the New Testament.”
This year’s production included 12 presentations—including one in Spanish—over the course of four days, from December 5–8, and brought more than 10,000 people to the building housing Opportunity Village, a community organization that cares for the needs of people with intellectual disabilities.
“We chose to partner with Opportunity Village because of the appropriate example they set of people trying to ‘lift the hands that hang down,’” said Steve Thomas, who helped his wife, Karen, in producing “The Nativity.”
More than 100 members of five stakes in the area made up the cast and crew necessary to carry out this year’s production, allowing them to use their skills and talents to create the sets, lighting, and acting for the event. “One of our volunteers uses his one week of vacation to come and do the lighting,” Sister Thomas said. “It has been incredible to see the outpouring of talent as people just bring it to the table and help.”
For one of the main actors, being involved has brought a special spirit to the Christmas season. “Personally, the most fulfilling and best part of it for me is to see the reaction of the people who have come to watch the performance,” said Kam Brian. He and his wife, Katherine, portrayed Mary and Joseph.
“We are sort of center stage when the program ends, and as I look out and see the reactions of the crowd, I can see in their eyes they have been touched, and it helps in focusing on the true meaning of Christmas.”
This marks the third year that Brother and Sister Brian have portrayed Mary and Joseph. Although it has meant sacrificing time—especially with a family during the busy holiday season—Brother Brian doesn’t look at it as a sacrifice. Rather, he sees it as an opportunity to change his perspective and help his children see what matters most.
“When we sit down on Christmas Eve and read the story in Luke, it has helped our children connect with the story,” he said. “They have that visual and have seen the depictions of these scenes live.”
When people started making comments to Brother Brian about his growing beard, he took it as an opportunity to invite them to the show.
“Everybody seems to be touched in some way,” said Brother Brian.
In addition to the live Nativity scene, a crèche display and music performed by children welcomed visitors to the event.
“We hope people feel the Spirit and feel the true meaning of Christmas,” said Sister Thomas.
By changing locations from a church to the community building, the production has become a vehicle to reach out and serve with other organizations in the community.
“There are so many examples of how we have witnessed ‘The Nativity’ bring people to Christ,” said Brother Thomas.
One example Brother Thomas talked about was a man who was invited by a neighbor to help manage the parking at the event. Because of the growing popularity of the event, parking hundreds of cars each night in an organized fashion had become a problem. The man, who had worked for a construction company, had many years of experience directing cars and parking.
“He showed up with his own reflective vest, a flashlight, and even asked if we needed to borrow his stop sign, which could be used to help control the flow of cars as needed,” Brother Thomas recalled. “After the several hours of directing cars he commented to one of the [Church members] who inquired how he was doing that he had never seen anything like it.”
He had been directing cars for many years, and people acting so kind and friendly was very unusual. His neighbor invited him to bring his family the next night to attend a performance where he could see for himself what was going on.
“He brought his wife and he was still dressed in his flagman’s reflective vest and had his flashlight,” Brother Thomas said. “After the performance, they sought me out with tears in their eyes and said they had never felt anything like this before. Note that they didn’t say they had never ‘seen’ anything like this before; they said they had never ‘felt’ anything like this before.”
The most important part of the event, Sister Thomas said, is that thousands were able to feel the Spirit as they welcomed in the Christmas season.
“‘The Nativity’ here in Las Vegas is, in essence, an offering made by several hundred members and some friends who love Christ and want to honor Him by celebrating His birth,” Brother Thomas said. He added that this is done by bearing testimony to some 12,000 people through the sights, sounds, and spirit of “The Nativity.”