Outdoor Nativity

Outdoor Nativity

Fox Valley residents now look forward to the weekend after Thanksgiving

when Immanuel’s outdoor nativity again reminds us all of the true story of Our Savior’s birth.

You are invited to drive or walk past the nativity at any time.



The story of our 150-foot long panoramic display began a year or two before it was actually erected for the first time in 2007. Trustees Jim Hagemann and Dan Gatz had been talking about how Immanuel could make a statement about our faith and purpose at this most-holy time of year. They decided a nativity could do that, but neither dreamed the presentation would grow as quickly and cover as much space as it now does.


Both men remember that 40 sheets of weather-proof plywood appeared at the church, the gift of an anonymous donor. Images were sketched and cut from the plywood; and many electric saw blades were ruined in the process. Pieces first were primed for painting, then several artists took over: Jim Hagemann, Anna Sedberry, Kris Ford, and Jenna Dodd McKnight. “We had always used artist colors,” Anna remembers. “We’d never painted with outdoor house paint before. It was difficult.” 


Yet, the figures emerged with personalities and glowing colors. She and Hagemann laud Kris Ford’s artistic ability in painting the expressive faces on Mary, Joseph, the Christ Child, shepherds, and Wise Men.


“This started as a gift to the congregation and the community,” Jim Hagemann says. “But it morphed into something way beyond our expectations." Dan Gatz has had comments from friends and neighbors who attend other churches. “For them, driving through—or walking through—our Nativity has become a Christmas tradition.” 


Each year, more people come to see and absorb the Christ Child’s story. You and your family are invited!



Adapted from a story originally written by the late Marj Holbrook in Nov. 2011.