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Troy — The Bible story came to life Sunday at Zion Christian Church as shepherds tended to grazing animals and Mary gently cradled the Baby Jesus served as the backdrop to a holiday message of hope.

The living nativity display, with llamas, donkeys, cows, sheep and a camel, is in its fifth year and has become a cherished tradition at the church on Livernois north of 16 Mile, organizers say.

The scene was the centerpiece of Sunday's service as song and praise filled the chapel and a crowd of more than 1,200 clapped, danced and sang along.

Karla Bennett has attended the program for several years and said it adds a unique, 21st Century twist to the message that she says she never gets tired of hearing.

"It makes the Bible story come to life," said Bennett, who attended the service with her husband, Michael and 3-year-old daughter, Kiersten. "The story holds true. The whole play is centered around it — the birth of Christ."

The free service featured a short presentation of the Christmas story and a myriad of holiday carols ranging from "The First Noel," to "Joy to the World," and "O Come All Ye Faithful."

Troy resident Vicki Augustiniak brought her two granddaughters, Alyssa Augustiniak, 18, and Abby Speed, 11, out for the show. She too, has enjoyed in the past.

"It makes it seem real," said Augustiniak, a nurse, adding the presentation puts the story of the events into perspective. "It's excellent to realize it wasn't just an easy thing that happened.

Added Abby as she danced to the music from her seat: "It seems like fun."

Associate Pastor Scott Morgan said the program, put on by the church congregation, is one of the largest events it hosts each year.

Morgan said the presentation sets out to encourage and spread hope and inclusion.

"With all the hopelessness in the news today, this is a message of hope, love and acceptance of everybody," he said.

The animals were brought in Sunday by Wilderness Trails Zoo in Birch Run.

For others, including Dionne Huffman and Melissa Kristofice, the visit was their first to the church. The pair learned about the show from social media.

"It's a different experience of the Christmas story," Huffman said.

CFerretti@detroitnews.com

(313) 222-2069

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