By David Dawson
TBMB Communications Specialist
“The Singing Christmas Tree.” Just hearing those words still brings a smile to my face.
When I was a boy, my dad was pastor at Dalewood Baptist Church in Nashville. Each year, the church put on “The Singing Christmas Tree” — and memories of it remain vivid in my mind to this day.
The dancing lights. The joyful music. The excitement in the air. For me, this wasn’t just a production. It was Christmas.
Our minister of music, Terry Cothran, was a masterful director. He always wanted the production to be perfect — and to me, it always was. If there ever were any mix-ups or malfunctions with the lights, the music or the set, I certainly don’t remember them.
What I do remember, in great detail, is how the church would absolutely come alive during those 60 minutes. I recall, perfectly, how the choir would sing, “when they saw the star, they rejoiced with great joy,” as the wise men entered the sanctuary from the back, coming down the aisle and pointing at the star with looks of amazement.
In the eyes of a young boy, the sanctuary at Dalewood felt as big as a cathedral, and the Singing Christmas Tree seemed to stretch into the sky. And, in actuality, it was indeed rather enormous. I remember the choir members who “didn’t like heights” would be assigned to the lower levels, and only the most brave-hearted soul would be put on the top tier. He or she was always the unspoken “MVP” of the production.
On many nights, long after most everyone else had left the building, I would climb to the top of the tree with Bro. Terry’s son, Blake. The two of us, still close friends today, would peer down at the rows of pews as if we were looking down on the city from the window of a skyscraper.
Years later, after my dad was called to a church in Alabama, my family would return to Dalewood each year for The Singing Christmas Tree. Those trips are cherished memories, too.
Over the past couple of weeks, I’ve spent a lot of time reflecting on The Singing Christmas Tree while I’ve been working on a story about Christmas-themed productions that churches are doing throughout our state (See story, page 1). While writing the story, I was reminded again of the enormous importance of these productions.
Internally, among the church body, the task of putting on a Christmas production can be (and normally is) a terrific bonding experience. It builds unity among the members, bringing the church together for a common goal.
Yes, it’s tiring. The preparation takes weeks, often months. The set-building is an arduous assignment. And the commitment level is off the charts. Those involved often have to make significant sacrifices, such as spending long, late nights at the church and perhaps even rearranging their holiday travel plans.
But here’s the point — it’s done in a spirit of love. It’s done because a group of Christ-followers want to share the incredible news of Jesus’ birth with their friends and neighbors. It’s done because we, as believers, want to send out a resounding message that there is a reason to be excited at Christmastime that goes far beyond Santa and ornaments and presents.
This past week, my family — my wife, our two young boys and I — traveled to Murfreesboro to attend the “Bethlehem Marketplace” at Southeast Baptist Church. The presentation has been put on by the church for almost 40 years.
As my family walked through the Marketplace, we could spot Roman soldiers mingling about the crowd, street vendors hawking their goods (cheese, bread, rugs, etc.), and live animals. It was a wonderful recreation of Bethlehem.
When it was over, I literally wanted to walk back through and shake the hands of every single person involved. I wanted to tell them thank you. I wanted to tell them that I knew how much work went into their efforts. And most of all, I wanted to remind them that what they are doing is very, very important — and that it could potentially have an eternal impact on someone’s life.
That same message goes for anyone who is involved in a production this year, whether it’s the children’s musical, the annual choir concert, a live nativity scene, or anything of the sort. What you are doing is Kingdom work! And it’s not just commendable, it’s immeasurable. You are doing the most important thing a person can do: You are pointing people to Jesus.
So, please, don’t underestimate the value of your efforts … regardless of which role you’re playing or which rung of the tree you’re standing on. B&R