Mesa Mormon temple hosts largest volunteer-driven Christmas lights display - East Valley Tribune: Mesa

Mesa Mormon temple hosts largest volunteer-driven Christmas lights display

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Posted: Thursday, November 22, 2012 3:41 pm | Updated: 3:05 pm, Fri Nov 23, 2012.

Continuing the tradition that has lasted more than three decades, the Mesa Arizona Temple Gardens will again host the spectacular Christmas lights display that is recognized as one of the most beautiful in the state.

The largest known volunteer-driven Christmas lights display, it is the result of more than 10,000 volunteer hours, said Dee Hobbs, a volunteer with the lights committee, who has directed the placement of the lights for the past nine years. Each year, for several weeks before Christmas, volunteers work in waves to hang lights and construct the displays that attract thousands each year.

Hobbs said the local units of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints have specifically designed the free annual event to convey a message of peace and goodwill and to share the true message and the wonder of the Christmas season. The title itself is an invitation that beckons community members to Celebrate the Birth of Christ in Lights and Music.

The Mesa Temple Garden Lights Display is known for its stunning exhibit of lights in unique and interesting patterns, some in the gardens along the ground, and others high overhead in the tall palm trees. In addition to the thousands of lights, also featured are outdoor figures, including a large nativity, life-size replicas depicting Mary and Joseph on their journey to Bethlehem and a figure representing the Biblical prophet Isaiah, who prophesied of Christ’s birth. Recorded messages at various spots around the garden are available in Spanish and English.

Inside the adjacent Visitors’ Center is an exhibit of international nativities. Each year the display is different, featuring dozens of large nativity sets, numerous miniatures and other artistic renderings, all made of the finest materials and in the tradition of the artisans’ and their various countries.

The co-founder of the international nativity display, Sally Johnson, who started the display eight years ago, says, while the display presents beautiful pieces from around the world, the real beauty comes from the message the nativities convey — that people in every nation reverence the birth of the Savior.

“Jesus Christ is worshipped by people throughout the world in their own way,” Johnson said. The nativity display includes approximately 100 nativity sets, including a collection of miniatures as well as art on the walls and other items.

Along with the international nativities, permanent features in the Visitors’ Center include a 13-foot marble replica of the original Christus sculpture, audiovisual presentations, as well as a 10-minute film depicting the birth of Christ.

Outside, on the north side of the Visitors’ Center, free holiday concerts, with different performers each night, will be offered beginning on Dec. 1 and running through Dec. 25. Each concert begins at 7 p.m. and will last about 30 minutes. Because of limited space, early seating is recommended.

Among the concert performers will be Rob Gardner and the Spire Choir, Mesa High School A Capella Choir, Westwood High School Honor Choir, Firefly—the Merchant Sisters, Chandler Children’s Choir, the St. Anne’s Catholic Church and Gilbert Stake Choir, and Grace United Methodist Church Chancel Choir and Canterbury Bells. Also appearing will be Orpheus Male Chorus of Phoenix, Vanessa Joy and Marvin Goldstein, the Tyler and Linsey Maxson family and the Michele and Sterling Baer family. For a complete list of concerts, go to www.mesachristmaslights.com.

“We are thrilled to be able to share the event with the community again this year and we welcome all that choose to celebrate the spirit of the Christmas season with us,” says David E. LeSueur, LDS Church Area Authority.

The free Mesa Temple Garden Lights Display opens to the public Friday, Nov. 23, and the lights will be turned on from 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. every night through Dec. 31. During the weeks of the lights display, the Visitors’ Center will be open from 10 a.m. until 10 p.m. each day.

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 Temple Garden Christmas Lights Display call (480) 964-7164 or visit www.mesachristmaslights.com.

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