The Rockford Nativity Display and Concerts began with a desire to serve the Northern Illinois faith community by creating a family event to help focus the Christmas Season on the blessed birth of Christ. It was first put together in 2010 using totally volunteer labor and has continued every year until the present except for in 2013. The first year all that was done was the decoration of the church building, the display of nativities and the concert. It continues to be a volunteer offering of service and love by the members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints to the Christian families of Northern Illinois.
Events geared especially for children to increase the enjoyment for families were implemented in 2012. The 8 minute live vignette was added at that time also. The popularity of all the children’s activities has insured their inclusion every year since that day. Due to the popularity of the shepherd vignette in 2012, the second 8 minute vignette about Mary and Joseph was added in 2014. Both were continued in 2015 due to the dimension of understanding they add to the display of what the birth of Christ must have really been like for those who were blessed to be there.
Every year members of the church are asked to bring their nativities to the church and to help set up the displays. Performers are asked to come and share their musical talents gratus to help give the event that special feeling that only beloved Christmas music can give. Thanks are owed to the Rock Valley Children’s choir, Svea Soner, the Cross and Crown Bell Ensemble, the Voices of Harlem from Harlem High School and the Belvidere North High School Choraliers for taking a chance on an unknown venue back in 2010. Not enough performers could be found, so church members and families filled in and segments were shown of the Tabernacle choir Christmas program.
We give thanks to the Rockford Area Flute Club, the Greater Rockford Area Barbershop Chorus, the Williams Sisters, and Light Source, a contemporary Gospel Rock band, the Horn club of Rockford, Michelle Borgmann, the Swahili choir, Paul Neumann, John Mosley, Jim McElhaney, and the piano students of Marilyn Cade, the Rodriguez family, the Fluegal family and the Operetta Party for sharing their talents with all those who have visited the display and concert in succeeding years.
What goes into this event:
The Rockford Nativity Display and Concert is put together by an all volunteer army of men, women, teens and children who come together during the week preceeding the event. A chaos of women ironing tablecloths, volunteers sorting out branches and putting together Christmas trees early in the week gives way to nativities being unloaded and lovingly put on tables piece by piece. On Wednesday night the teens descend on the church and with enthusiasm, fold and staple programs, put lights and ornaments on trees, put up outdoor lights and signs, and help in whatever still needs doing. On Thursday, young adults arrive and finish off whatever needs to be done especially with clean-up and stowing away what needs to be put out of traffic areas. Also, our electronics expert checks over all the trees, and lamps getting them to work together without blowing circuits. Also on Thursday, our extremely able sound technician sets up all the microphones, does all the testing and works with groups who come and want to practice on location. On the theater front the Garner family and helpers feverishly work all week to turn an ordinary class rooms into magical Bethehem evening scenes as well as rehearse the players who will make it all come to life on the weekend.
Each room has a volunteer coordinator who manages the volunteers from her congregation to decorate and set up his or her assigned room. Assignments are given and accepted by congregations in Sterling, Freeport, Byron, Rochelle, DeKalb, Sycamore, Belvedere, and Beloit Wisconsin. In addition two family congregations, a Spanish congregation and a Young adult and congregation who meet in Rockford’s two buildings volunteer their services.
Preparations begin months in advance with a small committee of people who gather mid-summer to begin preparations for securing coordinators from each congregation, working on over all publicity, and the myriad details required to organize such an undertaking. Performers start being contacted in early August to check on availability and willingness to perform. Planning intensifies throughout the fall in order to get all in readiness for setting up the week of the Display.
The Nativity Display is put up in a week and taken down in an evening. Saturday evening as soon as the last note is sung and the prayer is said, the entire facility is transformed into a beehive of people taking down trees, nativity sets, lamps, lights, ornaments, tables, and wreaths. Bethlehem vanishes and becomes a couple of class rooms and the nursery again. The magical glittering and glistening of lights gives way to brooms, vacuums as boxes and boxes of items are packed away for another year. The next day as congregations arrive for Sunday services, it is as if it had never happened, except for some items in the cloakroom waiting for pick-up by owners who missed them the night before.
You are cordially invited to come with your family to the Rockford Nativity Display and Concert on December 1st and 2nd this year. Take a moment to look at the concert schedule to see which performers you would like to hear in the live performances. If you have small children, check the times listed when the craft room and storyteller room will be open. Prepare yourself for a step into the timeless magic of that first wonderful night when Christ was born.
On that busy Friday night or Saturday the first weekend in December this year, take a break from holiday shopping and other hustle and bustle of the season, to reconnect the precious birth that gives meaning to everything else in life.
Thanks belong in several areas.
Thank you to the many volunteers who make the Rockford Community Nativity Display and Concert possible each year. You spend untold hours planning what you have been asked to decorate. You take time off of work and time away from your family to make everything so beautiful. You lend your own decorations and nativities. You hire caregivers for the elderly and babysitters for your children and in other ways inevitable spend from your own pockets. You enduring the anxiety of heavy added responsibilities during an already busy holiday season. You stay and help others when your job is done. You stay late Saturday night to help take everything down and then get the family up and ready for church bright and early the next morning.
Thank you to the families who allow their moms to spend long hours on this project. Thank you to the children who come with their moms and either help decorate or patiently watch videos while mom is so busy. There are too many people involved each year to list names. It would be too easy to forget someone.
Thank you to the performers who share and have shared their musical talents with the Rockford Nativity Display and Concert. There wouldn’t be a concert without you. You are accepting of the fact that a lot of the people hearing your beautiful music are not in the same room watching you but are hearing you all over the building as they look at the displays. You are patient as people walk in and out during your performance and children make noise. Thank you for doing it all without any payment. Thank you for adding to the warmth of the experience for all who attend.