Carl Brown works on building the manger scene at Faith Assembly of God's living nativity.

Jesus’ birth will be celebrated in grand style starting Friday as Faith Assembly of God Church opens the gates to its living nativity.

The drive-through nativity is the most elaborate of its kind in the county.

“We basically reconstruct, as best we can, the actual city of Bethlehem on the night of Jesus’ birth,” said Dwight Larkey, who is in charge of this year’s nativity.

Indeed, the church parking lot is transformed into a mini Main Street, filled with a blacksmith shop, pottery shop, tax collector’s office, bakery and King Herod’s red throne, all of which bustle with action.

Before entering the city, drivers face a looming gate, which is protected by three Roman soldiers, one of whom stands guard on horseback. Before passing through, drivers and their passengers are offered coffee or hot chocolate and are given a CD that explains the story of Jesus’ birth and gives some information about the church.

Once through the gate, cars are surrounded by Main Street action, with Roman soldiers weaving in and out of traffic, women walking to and from the well to fetch water, and sheep, goats and donkeys milling in enclosures and in the nearby shepherd’s field.

New this year is a tent city, which will lie close to the manger.

“It depicts the nomads that would have been out in the desert,” Larkey explained.

The route is lined with glowing tiki torches up until the manger scene, with Mary and Joseph standing over their new baby.

The extremely popular celebration pulls in about 6,500 spectators each year, with the road up to Faith Assembly, which is located behind Cracker Barrel off KY 80, often clogged with traffic all the way to Interstate 75.

To help the wait to get in go by faster, clips of Christmas movies will be projected on two giant screens.

The production takes about 100 cast members to pull off.

One of the most famous cast members — Tyler the camel — will not be participating this year, however.

“He got very expensive,” Larkey laughed. “We’re hoping to have him again next year.”

This is the nativity’s fourth year, which was the brainchild of former pastor Greg Ables.

Faith Assembly of God’s living nativity runs Friday, Saturday, Sunday and Dec. 14 through 17. Performances begin at 6:30 p.m. each night.

The nativity is free, although donations are accepted.

Staff writer Tara Ka-prowy can be reached by e-mail at

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