Kilgore church celebrates Christmas with drive-thru Nativity
By Reese Gordon email@example.com
Dec. 12, 2013 at 10 p.m.
KILGORE - There is a winter wonderland in Kilgore filled with giant snowmen, Santa and his elves, but the at the heart of the attraction is what members of a local church would call the true reason for the season - a re-enactment of the night of Jesus' birth.
"In our home we celebrate Santa Claus, but we keep it at the forefront that it is about Christ's birth," Todd McElmurry said Thursday night as he portrayed the role of Gabriel in Forest Home Baptist Church's drive-thru Nativity scene.
"So it's really neat to do something like this because you get to bring both traditions together. You have people that come to see the Santa Claus thing, and they get witnessed to as they go through with the Nativity."
The free attraction opened Thursday and continues from 6 to 9 p.m. today and Saturday at the church at 15746 CR 173 North in Kilgore.
Since 1992, almost 40,000 people have visited Forest Home Baptist Church's drive-thru Nativity scene. About 1,000 people attended the three-day event last year, and organizers said they expect the same amount this year.
"We have people from everywhere come here," said Pat Monk, organizer. "It is as much an outreach for the church as it is a church bonding event."
According to Monk, about 100 people are involved with the aspects of the Nativity scene, which takes about 15 minutes to drive through.
Monk has been the minister of education for the past 26 years and was the driving force behind the creation of the Nativity scene 21 years ago.
"A group of folks got together and we talked a little bit about doing a Nativity," he said. "I had seen some still Nativities, but nothing moving or live. There was one at a church in North Diana out in the woods. We kind of went and looked at it and perused some plans that we wanted to do."
Monk said the church originally used cardboard to build the sets, but it realized plywood would be better since it isn't damaged as much by rain. Music minister Mark Fried said rain has only canceled the event six times out of 60 performances.
Faith Jones has participated in the drive-thru Nativity scene for four years and recently passed out fliers at her school to invite classmates to attend.
"The fun part to me is getting to know what it was like when Jesus was here," she said. "And being able to see what they did and what they had."
Ian Gray drove from Longview on Thursday night to see the Nativity scene for the second time in the past three years.
"I think it's pretty cool that people still do stuff like this," he said. "Everybody says 'Happy Holidays' and are taking Christ out of Christmas. So it's neat to see them still do a live Nativity."