Drive-through drama follows Christ ‘from birth to ascension’
HOUSTON — The soft glow of twinkling Christmas lights illuminates the scene of Jesus’ birth. Cars and trucks full of yuletide spectators — and a few hayrides — pass an angelic choir bathed in otherworldly brightness.
Then the scene changes, and motorists hear the cries of children clamoring to see a full-grown Jesus. They watch as he heals the sick and angers the Pharisees. They hear his cries of anguish as he is nailed to the cross.
Then, they see a risen savior.
The unique drive-through experience is an annual outreach of the West Houston Church of Christ. The weekend before Christmas, the church presents “Celebrate Jesus.”
Driving their own cars or riding on church-provided hayrides, more than 2,000 guests observe key scenes in the life of Christ and interact with Bible characters, church leaders said.
Roughly 200 volunteers from the West Houston congregation stage the production, which just finished its fifth year. The drive-through production also features animals, including lambs and a 1,000-pound camel named Gunther.
“I enjoy the whole travel through Jesus’ life,” visitor Mary Gutierrez said. “It’s not just about Christmas. That’s just the beginning.”
The journey occurs outside in the cold night air with stations set up all around the church, each booth depicting a different event in the Savior’s life.
Church member Ken Fulfer said “Celebrate Jesus” is different from many productions that focus only on Christ’s birth.
“We have a scene obviously that celebrates his birth, but we have scenes that celebrate his death and resurrection,” Fulfer said. “So we’re wanting to give this community a snapshot of Jesus’ life from birth — not to the grave — but birth to ascension. And that’s what makes it special.”
The goal, Fulfer said, is to “lift Jesus up.”
In addition, West Houston elders pray with motorists after they drive through the parking lot.
“For me, it’s such a great outreach because we’re reaching deeper into the community that’s directly connected with the church,” elder Cary Simonds said.
“We’re touching a lot of lives that wouldn’t normally come through the church door,” he added. “I’ve met several people that were introduced to the church through ‘Celebrate Jesus.’”
The smiles on the visitors’ faces, the stories that church members get to share, the camaraderie among the volunteers — Simonds said all that “helps build community inside of our own congregation.”
“So it’s kind of a dual peace,” he said. “We reach out, but yet we get to reach in.”
PHOTO: Jesus preaches the Sermon on the Mount during the drive-through “Celebrate Jesus.” PHOTO BY BOB WARD