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Santa Monica Nativity Scene Returns to Mt. Olive Church

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By Hector Gonzalez
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December 9, 2014 -- Although it continues a legal fight to return its Christmas display to a public park, the Santa Monica Nativity Scenes Committee will once again bring its nativity displays to a local church beginning this Sunday and continuing through January 1, a spokesman for the group said.

Now in its 62nd year, the Santa Monica Nativity Scenes will feature 13 life-size scenes depicting the birth of Jesus Christ. They’ll be on display around Mount Olive Lutheran Church, 1343 Ocean Park Boulevard. at 14th Street, the same location where the nativity scenes were installed last Christmas, committee spokesman Hunter Jameson said.

“This is a very distinctive display in that 13 different churches are involved,” Jameson said Monday. “Each church is in charge of a different scene.

“It’s an effort that brings together many churches and denominations, and it’s always a pleasure and joy to see all the families walking past to view the scenes,” he said.

Eight nativity scenes -- created with mannequins and elaborate backdrops -- can be viewed along Maple Street, one block north of Mount Olive Lutheran, and five more will be on view along 14th Street in front of the church, Jameson said.
Each scene shows a different aspect of the early life of Jesus Christ, from Annunciation through Jesus’ boyhood, he added.

“The very last scene, and one that is always a favorite of mine, shows Jesus as a young boy working in his father Joseph’s carpentry job, learning the craft of carpentry,” Jameson said.

In 2011, the City ended the Santa Monica Nativity Scenes, a local tradition that began in 1953, after a group of atheists swamped the city with applications for its own displays in Palisades Park.

Atheists put up signs -- some of them satirical -- that later were vandalized, prompting City officials to eliminate all overnight displays at Palisades Park, including the Nativity Scenes.

Members of the Nativity Committee, a coalition of churches, then sued the City on grounds the ban violated the members’ constitutional rights, but U.S. District Judge Audrey Collins dismissed the lawsuit in November 2012.

The committee appealed, and arguments in the appeal are scheduled to be heard February 6 by the three-judge Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Pasadena, Jameson said.

An opening ceremony for this year’s nativity display will be held at 3 p.m. Sunday at Palisades Park along Ocean Avenue near Arizona Avenue. It will feature a Salvation Army brass band playing Christmas music and a recitation of the Christmas story, according to the Committee.
During the opening event, Nativity Committee members will honor Santa Monica residents Lawrence and Kari Czer for their support. Committee members also will welcome a new member church, St. Peter & St. Paul Coptic Orthodox Church of Santa Monica.

St. Peter & St. Paul Coptic Orthodox Church, 1245 4th Street, will display a nativity scene depicting “Joseph’s Dream,” in which an angel warns Joseph to flee to Egypt with the baby Jesus, Jameson said.

“We are delighted to have St. Peter & St. Paul Coptic Orthodox Church join us, and we thank Pacific Crossroads Church, which displayed the scene before retiring from the committee this year,” said Jameson.

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