NATIVITY STORIES From Around New Zealand


Dave Mann

As part of Hope Project Christmas we love to share exciting stories from around Aotearoa, to inspire ideas and share the opportunity to intentionally keep nativity scenes familiar at Christmas.

Northcross Church

Christmas Drive-Through Experience

The team behind this ‘next level’ exceptional interactive light display – featured in this video, shares their journey as this has continued to grow over a number of years. Northcross Church in Auckland operates the drive-through for five evenings each year from the 20 December until Christmas Eve starting at 9.00pm until 10.30pm.


It all started about 18 years ago with a very small display on the grass area outside the church. The display was a manger scene with live characters – Mary, Joseph and the baby Jesus inside the manager, and some angels outside the manger on both sides and carols playing. Northcross Church is situated down a long driveway of about 50 meters from the road so the display could not be seen from the street by passers-by, so for the first year the only people to see the display were church members and those they invited.

But the reputation of their display grew. Despite the location, more people began driving by than expected – so plans were made to extend it. The next step was to install four steel supports over the length of the drive to support lengths of overhead fairy lighting the full length of the driveway. This highlighted the display from the road. On the tech side, this is made up of 12 -14 strips of commercial-grade fairy lights. These steel supports stay up all year and are high enough for trucks to pass underneath, the only maintenance being the need for an occasional paint. At the same time a large lighted ” Welcome to Bethlehem” sign was created and erected.

To this was added a Bethlehem marketplace with stalls displaying fabric, bread, footwear, fish stall, blacksmith etc. that would be common in a small village. They keep most of this ‘village display’ in a 40 foot container at the back of the church property, which is then moved around to the carpark at the front of the church prior to set up, where it is used as the backdrop to the village market. As you can see in the video, the stalls are manned by live characters.

The Journey through the display

On both sides of the driveway, under the fairy lights, they erect various other displays interspersed with life-size cutouts of the three wise men, Joseph leading Mary on the donkey, shepherds and sheep. These are lit with LED strip lighting. The two main displays in this area are some Roman soldiers under a hut welcoming each car at the very front, and a group of live shepherds with a small flock of sheep and goats illuminated from the inside.

After cars have driven up the drive and through the marketplace, they drive through a small village of old biblical-style buildings all illuminated with overhead festoon lighting. The outline of the seven buildings are highlighted in fairy lights, interspersed with live characters, with plants and other props added to give it some life. Each year it grows – four illuminated palm trees being a new addition to the village this year.

After the village cars drive past the Inn – which is also illuminated, they go up to the manger. Around this are a number of large (almost life-size) camels and donkey, more live characters – mixed with additional illuminated silhouettes with overhead lighting. Around the manger are a number of lighted trees that they made themselves using a stainless steel metal frame covered in Christmas garlands and fairy lights. The manger has live characters inside. In total, the display has about fifty live characters each night, played out by members of the congregation.


To conclude the experience there is a farewell station that gives each car some candy for the kids, a tract with the Christmas message, and an invitation to come inside the church where there is a cafe set up with free coffee, hot chocolate, Christmas mince pies, a colouring competition for the kids, live music with Christmas carols, and twelve large Christmas trees.

Regarding engagement, they have around 5,000 people drive through over a five-night display each year, with a good number coming inside in addition. They have welcomers at the door to say hello to everyone that comes inside, and a team of church members in the foyer ready to talk or pray with people who are interested in discussing the real meaning of Christmas – though they don’t approach anyone (engaging conversation isn’t a condition). They simply leave the opportunity for guests to ask questions, which a few hundred do each year.

What they currently do took about 18 years to develop, and Tony – who wrote this story (edited only here) loved the idea that other churches might look to do similar, setting up small nativity displays at the very least in front of their various churches to remind the neighbourhood of the real meaning of Christmas. (Story by Tony)

A prayer room operates throughout also, praying throughout the 90 minutes that the drive-through is operating each night, praying for blessing and favour.


The images found here are from EXTRA displays this same amazing group of people do – including daytime displays (as contrasted with nighttime), and a lighting display they have set up for the two weeks prior to Christmas at the main entrance to North Shore Hospital (which took a team of 10 from their church 5 hours to set up, and 2 hours to pack down – to see Christ made visible to a truly large audience). What an AMAZING effort!

ACTION – Is this something your church could do?

If any church would love to look into how they could do something similar, the team at Northcross are happy to help out with ideas and share more specific details of putting this together. Contact us and we’ll put you in touch with them.

For more ideas go to Hope Project Christmas

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The Shining Lights Trust is a strategic resourcing ministry, serving Christian churches.

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