Annual traditions are a big part of the Christmas season and families have made the Mesa Arizona Temple Christmas lights a part of theirs.
Ty and Christina Travis, of San Tan Valley, brought their four children to the temple grounds during the opening weekend.
“We come every year,” Brother Travis said. “I think it’s peaceful. It’s a nice chance for the kids to learn about the Christmas season and get it started off right.”
Rebecca Herbert, of Phoenix, also came with her children. “I love the temple. I love Christmas. I love exposing them to what Christmas is,” she said.
The lights are on from 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. daily through Dec. 31 and the visitors' center is open 10 a.m.-10 p.m. Full-time sister missionaries serve as hosts on the temple grounds throughout the event and they hear from many visitors that the event is a special family tradition they wouldn’t miss.
“It’s a good time to gather as a family and to put Christ in their Christmas,” said Sister Wisanbannawit, serving from Thailand.
New this year are display stands outside with interactive QR codes that visitors can scan with a cell phone and be linked online to Church-produced videos that give deeper insight to eight scenes, including a large Nativity, Mary and Joseph on their journey to Bethlehem, and the prophet Isaiah prophesying of Christ’s birth.
Inside the newly remodeled visitors’ center is a seasonal Nativity exhibit with nearly 100 crèches from 50 countries. Visitors can view a 10-minute film depicting the birth of Christ and see the 13-foot marble replica of the "Christus" sculpture. In addition, there are new interactive exhibits about missionary work, the Book of Mormon and the temple.
The Mesa Arizona Temple and Visitors’ Center, 525 E. Main St., is within walking distance of the new Valley Metro Light Rail stop on Main Street and Mesa Drive.
In its 36th year, organizers of the event say they continue to view it as “a gift to the community.”
Stacey Farr, director of the Christmas lights display, said she oversees a large committee and thousands of volunteers who put on the event.
“All of us feel it is an honor and a privilege to be a part of this beautiful opportunity to serve,” she said.
Her own family is involved and even her grandchildren begin asking when it’s time to start helping.
“Every part of this is family,” she said.
Her brother, Keevin Willis, organized a family service project this year to erect the stage in front of the visitors’ center, which is used for 30-minute nightly concerts. They say it will become a yearly tradition in honor of their parents, Ronald and Veleda Willis, who were deeply involved in community and church service.
Brother Willis had already been involved in setting up various displays for three years and loves being on the temple grounds.
“There’s a spirit here that makes you feel really close to Heavenly Father and our Savior,” he said.
For more information or to view the concert schedule, visit www.mesachristmaslights.com.