Wadena area churches gathered together with songs of Christmas praise to light the community nativity at Wesley Lawn on Sunday, Dec. 8. The relaxed evening celebrated the birth of Jesus with songs, Scripture readings and prayer.

The Wadena Ministerial Association partnered with Tri-County Health Care to display the nativity for the fourth year and provided a fellowship space for the third year, according to the Rev. Nate Loer, Immanuel Lutheran Church lead pastor.

“I just hope that it’s one of these super positive events where we recognize … the common faith that we share. We’ve got a number of denominations … but I mean we all agree that this Jesus is God’s son and at Christmas time we celebrate his birth and that should bring people together,” Loer said.

With a reason to rejoice, area church members sang about adoring Jesus, inviting God to be with us, God’s guiding light and Jesus’ birth.

“It’s always nice to just hear everyone come together with no music sometimes, get out of the norm of jamming out and just enjoy singing together for one purpose,” said Rev. Jaymee Kinser, Wadena Assembly of God children’s pastor.

The singing and time around the nativity allowed members a moment to pause and remember the meaning of Christmas. Mayor George Deiss believes the nativity serves as a positive constant in the community, he said in an interview on Saturday.

“(The nativity) has a great impact on (the community) because it does help people through this time. It is a difficult world we live in and it’s good to have a constant that’s out there that people can look at and draw faith and draw strength from,” Deiss said.

The nativity, previously owned by the city and displayed in Burlington Northern Park, has shone for at least two decades, according to Loer. The nativity was purchased by the Ministerial Association in 2015 following a request for a separation of church and state from the Freedom From Religion Foundation. It’s been displayed on the Wesley Lawn since then as an expression of Christian faith on private property.

“We have really wanted to move past some of the contentious history that might have lead us to this point,” Loer said. “We really don’t consider this a form of protest or like we’re being persecuted or anything like that we’re just really, really happy for the opportunity to celebrate what we think is a really central moment in the history of the universe and that’s God becoming a human being in Jesus.”