Spectacular lights display represents gift to the community - East Valley Tribune: Mesa

Spectacular lights display represents gift to the community

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Posted: Thursday, November 28, 2013 9:45 am

Among the most beautiful and spectacular Christmas displays in the Valley—with hundreds of thousands of colorful lights, uniquely illuminated palm trees and flower gardens, an inspiring, European-crafted nativity scene, and more—is at the Mesa Arizona Temple of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

The annual lights display is a more-than 30-year-old tradition and the largest known volunteer-driven lights event. This year, in addition to traditional favorites, new sights and sounds will greet those who visit the free display on the Mesa Temple grounds.

“The lights display was started as a gift to the community,” said Stacey Farr, assistant director, “and that tradition continues as people and family groups just want to come and help with the lights and share in this way.”

This year, the massive volunteer effort included 400 who helped out Nov. 2, 300 more on Nov. 9 and 250 more on Nov. 16, “as well as many others who came in between during the week to help,” Farr said.

The result, she said, is both spectacular and spiritual, meant to convey the message of Christmas as well as a feeling of peace.

According to event spokesman, Stephen Harms, “The display represents our belief in Christ as the Redeemer, and our desire to proclaim that to the world. You could say the lights symbolize the light that Christ is in our lives as our Savior and Redeemer.”

Director Beckie Jackson agreed and said this idea was the reason for some of the changes they made this year.

“We wanted to help with the flow, and wanted some things to be new,” she said, but, most of all, “We wanted to create a feeling of ‘sacred elegance’ where people would feel the peace and love of the Savior when on the grounds.”

To do so, she said, they changed the color scheme, so “The lights will include more golds and more whites in the center area.”There will be new “flower clusters” among the lights, and several familiar focal items will be in different places than in past years.

“The large nativity display will be moved to the west side,” and, “A spectacular new statue of Mary and Joseph and the Baby Jesus, a donkey and sheep, will be placed in the negative fountain north of the temple,” Jackson explained. “It’s a beautiful piece and the fountain sets it off perfectly.”

The 8 1/2-foot tall camels, which adorn the lawn between Main Street and the Visitors’ Center, have been refurbished, with new LED lights and new lighted blankets. The work, which included removing the old incandescent lights, rewelding some sections and attaching more than 500 strands of LED lights was the Eagle project of Mesa Scout Jared Jackson, and overseen by Farr.

Inside the Visitors’ Center, an international nativity exhibit includes 100 crèches, from approximately 70 countries. New this year will be several sets not previously displayed, as well as new cases for miniature nativities and a collection of paper nativities from all over the world, including from Nepal.

The Visitors’ Center permanently features a 13-foot marble replica of the original Christus sculpture, audiovisual presentations, as well as a 10-minute film depicting the birth of Christ.

The Christmas lights display on the Mesa Temple grounds is free of charge. The Visitors’ Center is open from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m., and the lights are turned on each day from Friday, November 29 through December 31 from 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. There are also free concerts each evening from December 1 through 25 on the stage north of the Visitors’ Center. Early seating is encouraged, as the concerts begin each evening promptly at 7 p.m. They last approximately 30 minutes.

The Mesa Arizona Temple and Visitors’ Center, located at 525 E. Main Street, in Mesa, has free parking available in adjoining parking lots or on neighboring streets. For more information about the lights display, or to view the concert schedule, go to www.mesachristmaslights.com or call (480) 964-7164.

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