Christmas cantata night

24174602_504441229935324_2031369082892135469_nTonight was Christmas cantata night at church. For the last fifteen years (it might be more or less, I really don’t know!) our church choir and a variety of other singers, actors and artists have prepared a special presentation of Christmas music and readings as a part of our Advent midweek worship services. It started with lessons and carols, progressed to a published choir cantata, grew up into a full-scale dramatic and musical presentation, and has pulled back to a more relaxed event the past few years.

Our church is blessed with lots of musical talent, including directors, voices, soloists, and instrumentalists. Of course, we are also blessed with the compelling story of Christ’s birth, one that has been set to many different musical forms. It’s a great night that has become a great outreach event for our congregation as they invite family and friends to come and see what we’ve prepared.

I wasn’t as involved as much this year as I have been in the past. I’ve been in the choir, sang solos, played guitar, acted and narrated. But this year I simply read an adaptation of an archbishop’s Christmas sermon from “Murder in the Cathedral” by T. S. Eliot. My scaled-back part let me focus on a few other tasks these past few months. Youth read scripture, the choir sang a number of pieces, and one solo rounded out the program.

I got to meet a lot of folks I didn’t know, guests of our members. I got to talk to others that I only see at this event each year. Plus I got to watch and listen to the presentation since I didn’t have to remember my lines and pay attention to my cues.

I knew most of the songs and I had been there for the rehearsals, so none of it was new to me. I have to remind myself that many are hearing it all for the first time. Many haven’t heard, read, preached, sang, and acted out the story of Christ’s birth. What would it be like to hear it and reflect upon it for the very first time. What questions would you have? What would touch your heart? It’s good to ask myself that question often anyway, so that I rediscover the impact of God’s word.

The choir really did great tonight. It helped that we overcame some challenges with the sound system and got their monitors working well. The fellowship afterwards was great. So many stayed, talked and got to know each other. Maybe that is part of why this is a popular and important event. People want to connect, they want to hear some good news, and they hunger for more than what the secular celebration of Christmas has to offer.

With just a week or two to catch our breath, we’ll be doing it again, getting ready for the Good Friday cantata. It’s a lot of work, but it’s energy well invested, and a blessing to so many!

Top ministry moments – #6: The big Christmas cantata

setFor many years our church’s music ministry has presented a special musical worship service during the seasons of Advent and Lent. A few years ago (2010), we went all out with a Christmas musical arranged by David Clydesdale “A Baby Changes Everything.” The production includes elaborate hand painted sets, lots of lines for actors and songs for soloists to learn, and a number of challenging pieces for the choir to learn. As part of a multi-age cast that met for many rehearsals, I had two solos of my own to learn, plus a narration. All our work was for just one night. By the grace of God we pulled it off. It was a night far beyond anything we had done before or have done since.

It centered around a world oblivious to the fulfillment of prophecies and birth of a Savior and those who discovered it as the angels appeared, the shepherds came to see and the wise men arrived. It speaks to our time, when we are often oblivious to our Lord and need to discover once again his ever-present gifts of grace.

It felt to me to be the perfect storm of cast, talent, script and song. Some of the cast have moved away, some have grown up, some are no longer involved, some can no longer sing. It won’t happen again, but it will always be a wonderful memory.