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Christmas on the Campground

This year, Christmas on the Campground reopened for visitors for the first time since 2019! Saturday morning, December 9, began with a dress rehearsal for the Sunday school Primary and Junior Department students and teachers. After practicing their lines and learning songs since early October, they were eager to perform on the nativity pageant set. After two run-throughs (which gave each soloist and speaker an opportunity to practice), everyone dispersed until the evening event.

In the late afternoon, the pageant performers returned to the tabernacle to get into costume, and at 5:00 p.m., the gates opened for guests. From the moment visitors stepped onto the campground, they were greeted with cheerful music and thousands of dazzling lights illuminating the front lawn, trees, bushes, and buildings. A highlight was the giant decorated trees near the activity center, one of which is over fifty-five feet tall, with lights strung all the way to the top! The smaller tree was equally stunning, as it was covered with thousands of piercing blue bulbs. They set a beautiful backdrop for the life-size nativity scene, which was complete with angels, shepherds, and wisemen gathered near the stable housing Mary, Joseph, and the Baby Jesus. The whole illuminated scene was a spectacular display for visitors and anyone else who happened to drive by the campground.

The pageant, which was presented two times each night, related the Christmas story through song, acting, and narration. The pageant is performed on a 100-foot platform across the front of the tabernacle, and hundreds of guests attended each showing. The play begins by relating how the angel appeared to both Mary and Joseph, letting them know that Mary’s baby would be the Son of God. It also relates various perspectives that existed in Judea at that time—the Jewish people who were longing for freedom from Roman oppression, the scribes and priests who were anticipating the promised Messiah, King Herod who feared a threat to his power, the shepherds who were the first to be told of the Savior’s birth, and the Wise Men who recognized the heavenly signs of the Messiah’s arrival. At the conclusion, a narrator explained that Jesus was never meant to be a political ruler, but to rule and reign in the hearts of His people. Before the final song, the narrator also led a prayer that modeled how to ask Jesus to be the Lord of our lives. Truly, this is the meaning of Christmas! It was clear from the positive reactions of the audience that everyone enjoyed the presentation.

Outside the tabernacle, there were ample opportunities for photos and selfies with beautiful light displays all over the front lawn. A new feature was a beautifully restored classic Model T car, where groups could have a souvenir photo taken with the tabernacle's "Jesus: The Light of the World" sign as the backdrop. There were also two new photo booths. One was inside the activity center, with a huge mural of the nativity, and the second was under an arch of lights with another nativity (this time with cut-out figures) at the end of the arch.

For those who wanted to enjoy even more lights and displays, train rides were available. This year there were three trains, one of which was wheelchair accessible, all festooned with lights. As they wound through the campground, riders saw inflatable giant carolers, snowmen, and winter animals. For some visitors, this was also an opportunity to tour the campground that they drive past year-round.

In front of the train "station" was a petting zoo with ducklings, bunnies, goats, a pig, two alpacas, and more. Children and adults alike enjoyed holding the cuddly bunnies and ducklings and petting or simply admiring the other animals.

The Fellowship Lodge was the place to relax and warm up with beautifully decorated sugar cookies and cups of cocoa and coffee. Guests could sit at tables and chat or just enjoy the beautiful view of the campground while listening to live Christmas music provided by a variety of musicians.

In total, almost seven thousand people came to Christmas on the Campground this year, and what a blessing it was to be able to share the joy of Christmas with our neighbors in such a memorable way. We pray that every person who came will realize that this event was inspired by God’s love—His love that caused Him to send Jesus to be the Savior of the world, and His love that still reigns in our hearts today.

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