After fifty years of ministry and over thirty major Christmas productions, assumed Christmas Celebration 2013 would be my last. I haven’t directed a “traditional” cantata since the early 70’s. In the ’79 and ’80 I began to stretch a bit, then in 1981, Christmas Celebrations (Year) were born. In the early days, David and Karen Boyd partnered with me at First Baptist Church Bartlesville, Oklahoma and together, we developed the format of great music, media, comedy, dance, and drama to share the message of Christ. Of course, a number of churches use similar formats , but we had a tendency to “push the envelope” a bit. Literally hundreds of people have helped me to the point that they do all the work, and I am the “cheerleader.”
I’ve used every style of music possible, traditional (whatever that means), classical, country, gospel, rock and roll, jazz, and even used rap…once….I won’t do that again.
I have received some criticism over the years, particularly, when it came to “dance” in a Baptist church, yet everything was done for a purpose and was part of the story line. One time it was “reported to my pastor” that I was allowing dance in the Christmas program. I learned later that the pastor “sneaked in” to a rehearsal to see what was going on. It was there, but it was so part of the story he didn’t notice. Of course, in more recent years, I have been much bolder, but have revived very little kick-back. Facts are facts, parents, grandparents, friends, neighbors, etc, will come to see a child dance and sing. Numbers have come to know Jesus.
I sought out abilities, interests, talents, and gifts of our church families and community members and celebrated them. I’ve had twirlers, comedians, dancers, ballet, and of course, countless singers and instrumentalists. Actors, builders, painters, media specialists…..babies, children, teenagers, college students, adults and some really old folks as well. In other words, members of the body of Christ. (I’ve even had a live animals, dogs, cats, sheep, a donkey…….yes, but we had a way to clean it up.)
We celebrated the “season” and then made a bee-line to the story of Jesus birth and the Gospel. “The tread of grace” runs from the overture to the finale’ Some of my favorite story lines…
1. Reality TV: We created a “spoof” on reality TV, and then asked the question, “If you can buy this a reality, how can you possibly deny the reality of Jesus?”
2. The Bucket List: A fellow had a near death experience and immediately created a bucket list. Through video, he jumped out of an airplane, raced a motorcycle, sang in a county band, etc, but left off trusting Christ Jesus.
3. I wrote on celebration around the story of a hotel piano player featuring my good friend, singer songwriter, Archie Jordan.
4. One of my early favorites was written about the child that still lives in each of us and paralleled the child like faith it takes to trust Jesus.
5. Back in the 80’s we did a Star Wars Celebration and then celebrated the one who made the stars and sent THE STAR.
I’ve repeated some themes and songs over the years, but have never presented the same celebration twice.
FIVE LOAVES AND TWO FISH: I look at the “seasonal” portion of my celebrations as “the five loaves and two fish.” Jesus shared His love and grace, and then fed the people. Of course, there people today that need food, but most need clean laugh, a great story, wonderful music and we share Jesus.
The Lord surprised me with Christmas Celebration 2014 and maybe He’ll give me a few more. This year, I get to celebrate with Level Grove Baptist Church in Cornelia, Georgia. I will write about CC’14 in another post.