*Courtesy of The Bison

SEARCY, Ark. – This weekend, the annual Living Nativity scene returns to Searcy. Whether Harding students are looking to get into the holiday spirit or are looking for a break from studying, they can find it right in Harding’s backyard at First Assembly of God Church.

Senior Blake Smith has participated in the Nativity scene since he was young, playing multiple roles throughout the years such as Joseph, a guard standing at the front gate, the beggar boy, and others.

“The Nativity scene gives you a visualization of what the events leading up to Jesus’ birth could have been like,” Smith said. “It is very realistic, and the only unbelievable thing about it is the vehicles driving through it. It’s also just a fun outing that you cannot find elsewhere, especially in Searcy.”

Unlike Smith, who grew up attending and participating in the Nativity scene, senior Emily Scott went for the first time last year and said it’s a good way to refocus your attention on why we celebrate Christmas.

“As I’ve gotten older, the holidays have been more focused on getting everyone gifts, catching up on sleep and spending quality time with family,” Scott said. “The Nativity scene reminded me why we celebrate Christmas and what it’s all about. This experience is something I think we can all benefit from during this time of year.”

The Nativity scene is a live reenactment of Jesus’ birth, incorporating live animals, actors, and full costumes and set. The church also provides hot chocolate, an audio CD to listen to as you drive, and Christmas movies that are played on a projector to ensure the best experience possible.

“I would 100% recommend people going to see the living Nativity scene,” Smith said. “The beauty of it, besides sharing the message of Christ’s birth, is just how it brings community together. It also just gives you something to do that you probably would never have had the opportunity to do had you not been a student here.”

Junior Averie Womack already made plans with friends to attend the Nativity scene for the first time this season.

“I’ve always heard people talk about how cool the living Nativity scene is,” Womack said. “I’m really excited to go see it this year.”

People come from all over the state and beyond, as stated by Only In Arkansas, to see the production put on by First Assembly of God, and it takes place right here in Searcy. The production draws an average of 10,000 – 13,000 visitors each year, according to Only In Arkansas. This experience is free to attend and runs two weekends, Dec. 6-8 and Dec. 13-15.