Metro-area churches are bringing the timeless Christmas story to life through musical concerts, productions and other holiday activities and events.
The use of music and theater are among the many ways to convey the real meaning of the holiday amid a heavy dose of commercialism, local church leaders said recently.
“We talk about gifts at Christmastime. We want to portray the true gift, and that's Jesus Christ. That's why we put so much into this,” said Keith Haygood, minister of music at First Baptist Church of Edmond, referring to his church's “The Living Christmas Tree: The Gift” musical production.
Haygood said the finishing touches to the Christmas tree — which reaches from the floor to the ceiling of the church's expansive sanctuary — recently were completed. He said the fourth-annual production will include 150 choir and orchestra members and dancers. Haygood said the church will perform the production for downtown Oklahoma City homeless shelter residents on Friday. Presentations on Dec. 8 and 9 will be free and open to the public.
Other churches with elaborate musical productions include First Presbyterian Church of Edmond, Victory Church, Henderson Hills Baptist Church and Bethel Baptist Church in Norman.
Chris Crow, executive pastor of Victory Church's creative departments, said the church's production of “Scroogical” is a modern retelling of Charles Dickens' classic “A Christmas Carol.” It is, perhaps, a fitting tribute to Dickens, because 2012 marked the 200th anniversary of the novelist's birth.
Crow said Victory Church's presentation is set in modern-day New York City and includes contemporary Christian music, live bands and special effects. He said some familiar Christmas characters will pop up, as well.
“We wanted to give the community something fun, entertaining and positive to attend this holiday season,” Crow said. “This production shows what Christmas is all about.”
Other music and drama productions include Henderson Hills Baptist's “The Plan” and Bethel Baptist's “The Gospel According to Scrooge.”
Jim VanHemert, music director at First Presbyterian Church of Edmond, said the church's fifth-annual production of “One Incredible Moment” includes more than 100 cast members performing the one-hour show adapted as a Broadway-style musical by Terry Attebery. Jessie Meeks, of Oklahoma City, and Justin Attebery, of Edmond, will head the singing cast as Mary and Joseph.
“We have great soloists and performers,” VanHemert said. “I think it's a first-class job considering these are volunteers. We have people who just want to tell the story of Jesus' life.”
Some congregations and faith-based organizations choose to share the message of Christmas in a different way.
Boy's Ranch Town in Edmond, operated by Baptist Homes for Children, will present its annual Nativity scene portrayal to the community with its Living Christmas Pageant Friday through Dec. 9, while a bustling Bethlehem marketplace and other biblical scenes will be presented through Forest Hill Christian Church's popular outdoor experience “Journey to Bethlehem,” continuing Saturday and Sunday in a wooded area near the west Oklahoma City church.
United Methodist Church of the Servant will blend the musical production and living Nativity scene presentation with “Home for Christmas,” set for Dec. 16.
Leaders said the church will present a musical journey through Christmas past and present, with more than 200 musicians, actors, dancers and live animals. The show will include favorite Christmas songs and hymns plus a visit from Santa Claus. A living Nativity scene will be presented, and families are encouraged to bring children to the event early to enjoy a “Nativity” petting area.
Musical concerts abound, including “Handel's Messiah” to be presented Dec. 9 as part of the Kemp Concert Series at First Presbyterian Church of Oklahoma City.
The Christmas portion of the work will be presented by the church's Sanctuary Singers, plus Westminster Presbyterian Church's Chancel Choir, singers from Redeemer Church and First Unitarian Church of Oklahoma City and many metro-area soloists. The chorus and a professional orchestra will be conducted by Josh Phelps, and accompanist John L. Edwards will play the 75-rank Moeller organ.