The surrounding county has been hard hit by the coronavirus, and Columbus is under a stay-at-home advisory. But, the pastor said, that doesn’t mean Christmas is canceled.
Advent Lutheran has pushed back its event to Dec. 23, after the order lifts, and it has expanded its single manger scene, starring a donkey named Shrek, to six drive-thru scenes from the Christmas story on its property.
The church has tried to be thoughtful about creating scenes with one safely distanced actor, like Mary delivering the Magnificat, as well as scenes that can be performed by a single household: a family of six will hold down the scene in which a multitude of the heavenly host appears to shepherds.
“Honestly, there’s disappointment and beauty in it all at the same time,” Layne said.
“I think it serves as a reminder that nothing — not sin, not COVID-19, not years like 2020 — can stop God’s love from coming and being with us,” he said. “Christmas is God’s love and salvation and word made flesh, and, you know, that doesn’t stop. In fact, I think it’s more important to do that now.”
In neighboring Indiana, Faith has cut some scenes from its Lafayette Living Nativity to accommodate more cars since it’s done away with its usual walk-through option. Over the years, it has expanded to recount not only the birth of Jesus, but the Garden of Eden story and Jesus’ death, resurrection and second coming. Hundreds of people, as well as camels, donkeys and sheep, now make up the cast.
“It’s just been a delightful way for us to proclaim the gospel at Christmastime,” Viars said.
“This year, there’s no question that there’s a hunger for truth. There’s a hunger for joy. There’s a hunger for a message that you can rely on in these uncertain times, but also just fun family activities that are safe.”
And, in true 2020 fashion, Mary, Joseph and the rest will be wearing face masks. “The nice thing about doing it in Lafayette in the wintertime is you need a mask, you need a scarf, so you’re bundled up anyway,” Viars said.
The biting donkeys may get masks, too.
“It might be comeuppance time for the donkeys in 2020,” he said.
This article originally appeared on ReligionNews.com.