First United Methodist Church is again providing a beautiful seasonal gift to the community by staging a re-creation of the Holy Night for three nights just before Christmas.

The community is invited to visit the living nativity from 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. Dec. 21-23. Warm cider and goodies will be served, and free tours of the historic sanctuary also will be available.

Under a redwood tree and adjacent to the church, a grassy area is transformed into a humble wooden stable, complete with a serene Mary, Joseph and tiny baby Jesus asleep in the manger. Three majestic kings stand by with their gifts to the Holy Child, attentive angels appear nearby and lowly shepherds tend to their flocks. It is a silent and beautiful scene to behold.

For 20 years, the congregation has joined together to bring this free event to the neighborhood and community. Members don attire to reflect the royalty of kings, the simplicity of peasants and the glory of angels. But no Living Nativity would be complete without animals, and this tradition has been upheld with camels, sheep, a donkey and occasional chickens provided by the Giddy Up Ranch in Acton that, among other services, rents out exotic animals for many clients in Southern California.

Owner Marie Grouand delivers her animals, and she even dresses up as a shepherd to tend to her flock during the event. Last year, a baby camel made his “stage debut” and was quite a hit.

First United Methodist Church is located at 305 E. Anapamu St. Parking is available behind the church, with the parking entrance off Garden Street.

For more information, click here or call 805.963.3579.

— Suzanne McAdams represents First United Methodist Church.