COVID-19 brought so many changes and challenges to ministry, but it also brought unique opportunities. One such opportunity arose in the Christmas season, when our community was devastated to learn that our town’s Christmas events would be cancelled due to the virus. This prompted my Acteens leader to launch an idea. My Acteens group helped our church hold a drive-thru live nativity event. We strung Christmas lights all over the field next to the church and made simple but beautiful light displays, along with organizing tableaus of scenes from the nativity story with costumed church members (both children and adults). The purpose of the event was to reach the people of our town with the gospel during this troubling year and show them who is really the hope of Christmas.
Our church was thrilled with this idea, and we immediately had volunteers jumping to help us make costumes, build scenery pieces, set up lights, and make an audio recording with the Christmas story and music playing for visitors to hear as they drove through. This was one of the most incredible parts of it for me: seeing the people in my church take initiative and put forth hard work to serve Christ and reach the people in our community. The project was a huge success! Around 300 cars drove through, with a total of more than 1,000 people hearing the gospel! It was truly awe-inspiring to see what God had done. He showed me that no matter the circumstances, He can work in miraculous ways that will astonish anyone. Of course, I knew this already, but it takes on such a different meaning when you witness it before your own eyes! For example, when my mom first presented her idea to the church, she was slightly apprehensive that it would be too big to get the financial and volunteer support needed to execute the idea. But God worked in the hearts of our church members and gave them a desire to labor for His cause as one body, as the church ought to be. The result was a finished project better than we had imagined.
People of all different ages and talents participated. The dads dressed as shepherds with their sons, while the teenagers and younger girls were angels. The moms served hot chocolate to the people in cars, and the elderly women helped sew the costumes. Even some of the older men dressed as wise men, and we had a real, live baby to be Jesus! It reminded me that no matter our age or limitations, we all have a part in God’s plan to make a difference in this world and to be a witness to the lost people around us.
I was very excited to be able to lend a helping hand to get everything set up. As with any large project, there were moments when I just wished the work would be done and we could stop and have a break (or even cancel the entire activity!). But in order to serve Christ and advance His kingdom, sacrifices must be made. My sacrifices were small, like giving up my free time to help assemble light structures. Looking back at this experience, I am reminded that prioritizing service to Christ is imperative, and I should always focus on accomplishing His tasks for me before I fill my time with less important things.
Our drive-thru nativity light display was not an easy event to plan, but with a little bit of support from your pastor and church (and some help from your Acteens leader if you’re a teenager), it can totally be done! Your event doesn’t have to be identical to ours; you can dress it up if you are a part of a large church with plenty of volunteers and resources, or you can simplify it for a smaller church setting. The most important thing to do when planning something like this is to PRAY! I prayed every day leading up to the opening night that God would bless the hard work we contributed and that many people would attend and hear the gospel. God answered my prayer with a yes! It is such an incredible feeling when you are living a part of the Lord’s master plan! Always remember: God can use anyone and anything to accomplish His work—and He wants to use YOU!
Hope Howard is a 2021 National Acteens Panelist from Kingsville, Texas.