ENCINO — Under crystal-clear skies and a full moon, Notre Dame High School students reenacted the events leading up to the Nativity.

The first-ever “A Christmas Candlelight Celebration!” took place on the evening of Dec. 4 at the Holy Spirit Retreat Center in Encino. Students acted out important moments in the lives of Joseph and Mary, including the Annunciation, the Visitation, the birth of Christ and the Gifts of the Magi.

The student-actors from the Notre Dame Campus Ministry dressed in costumes straight out of Biblical times and led patrons in procession on a journey to Bethlehem. Patrons carried candles while walking to each scene.

The high school students wrote and narrated each reflection during the scenes, including how to increase patience and faith and having an open heart to God and others during Advent.

The Notre Dame High School choir sang songs related to each scene — “Holy is His Name” and “Silent Night.” Patrons had the opportunity to take pictures of Joseph, Mary and baby Jesus in front of a manager. Hot cocoa, apple cider (compliments of Trader Joes) and cookies concluded the night.

Luella Wagner, who works at both the Holy Spirit Retreat Center and Notre Dame High School, coordinated the effort to bring back the true spirit of Christmas.

“The origins of the event grew from a desire to put Christ in your life at Christmas,” Luella said.

“The students of Notre Dame were like good Samaritans.” 

Almost all of the 42 students involved with campus ministry at Notre Dame High School participated in the event.

“I am inspired by these kids. This was completely voluntary and they all enthusiastically said, ‘Yes,’” said Reese Abbene-Ingino, who is the director of campus ministry at Notre Dame High School. 

The Holy Spirit Retreat Center plans on bringing back the “A Candlelight Christmas Celebration!” next year.