If putting up a few Christmas lights, with their broken bulbs and blown fuses, can be difficult, imagine the problems one might encounter putting up one million of them.
At the Niederman Family Farm – where about 1 million Christmas bulbs light up a Bible-based Christmas display – that's exactly the kind of trouble they have to deal with each year.
"I think there are hundreds and thousands and millions of lights displays, but I do think that we want to try to keep Christ in Christmas. And that's what our goal has been: to remember the season for what it really stands for,” said Janet Niederman, one of the display's organizers, in an interview with The Christian Post on Friday.
This year marks the 11th year Bob and Janet Niederman have hosted the display, which is set on an 11-acre section of their farm in Liberty Township, Ohio, just north of Cincinnati. The display, which will be open to the public Nov. 25 through Dec. 30, draws in more than an estimated 10,000 visitors each year.
In addition to the lights, those who visit the farm will take the equivalent of a five-block walk on a trail lined with giant pictures that represent stories from the Bible – the account of creation, the flood, some of Jesus' miracles, the crucifixion, resurrection and more. The Nativity scene, however, is not a picture, but is instead made up of life-sized figures and is set in an old garage that has been converted into a stable. Those who come to see the sights will also listen to Christmas music, which is played through 50 speakers scattered throughout the field, as they walk through the display.
To top it all off, after visitors complete the walk-through, they can go into a barn where they are offered free hot chocolate, cookies, and, occasionally, even entertainment. Visitors can also take a look at farm animals – a pony, donkeys, a llama, goats, sheep, and ducks.
Bob came up with the idea for the display some 13 years ago. Janet said they started pursuing the idea on “God's timing” because pieces from a similar display were being sold at auction around the time they seriously began working on it. The pieces they purchased at the auction – including the figures of Mary, Joseph, the wise men and a shepherd – had been exposed to the elements for over 30 years, but were refurbished by artists and are used in the nativity display to this day.
This year, their son, who usually spearheads the effort to get the display up and running, is fighting cancer, so their eldest grandson, a youth minister from eastern Pennsylvania, stepped in to organize the event. It usually takes three weeks to set up all the decorations, Janet said, though her grandson and an estimated 100 volunteers were able to set it up in record time this year.
Janet says the initial cost of installing power outlets in the field and purchasing all the equipment needed to create the display was high. She also said each winter they receive a “horrendous electric bill” following the event, and have to purchase new lights annually. Though the event is entirely free for visitors, the couple designated a place where they accept donations to help them cover the cost.
Although the focus of the display is on the Bible and not on other Christmas traditions, like Santa Claus or reindeers, Janet says they are not opposed to such popular characters either.
"It's not that we disapprove of Santa ... we just wanted it to be honoring God," she said.
"I feel like it's a pretty unique display, and hopefully we get the message out of the reason for Christmas.”