Living Christmas Tree begins tonight

Published 12:31 am Friday, December 16, 2011

First Church of Christ’s choir rehearses for its Living Christmas Tree production, which opens its 19th season tonight in Washington. (WDN Photo/Kevin Scott Cutler)

It doesn’t come wrapped in shiny paper tied with a bright-red bow, but it is one of the best Christmas gifts that will be given this year.

The Living Christmas Tree, a production by First Church of Christ in Washington, opens tonight at 7:30 p.m. and continues Saturday and Sunday evenings, beginning at 7:30. Prelude music begins at 7 p.m.

“We just want to offer something that people in our town of all ages can come out and enjoy,” said Steve Hill, the church’s lead preaching minister and director of the Living Christmas Tree. “This is our gift to the community.”

The musical features 85 singers and 15 actors in stage roles, but at least another 100 members of the church congregation work behind the scenes, including lighting and scenery technicians, parking attendants, child-care helpers for the nursery, ushers and stagehands. Those in the featured roles range in age from eight weeks to 80 years, according to Hill. Five different babies will portray Jesus during the program’s run.

Another of the young performers is Leslie Parker, a 14-year-old Washington High School freshman who shares the role of Mary with Warner Little.

“I’m excited to get up there and hold the baby,” Leslie said with a smile.

Joining Hill in heading up the show are choir director Sherry Hill and drama director Andrew Duncan. 2011 marks the 19th year of the Living Christmas Tree, which took a hiatus last year. This year’s program is titled “Searching For The King” and is new to First Church of Christ, Hill said.

Preparations for the production began back in the summer when a program was chosen, and rehearsals began in September. The multi-tier tree, twinkling with an estimated 10,000 white lights, was erected last month and serves as a stage for choir members.

While the program has been enjoyed by countless area residents over the years, it is a blessing to the congregation of First Church of Christ, too, Hill noted.

“It’s something that all of us get to work on together,” he said. “That’s one of the things we enjoy, the fact that we all work together. This is a church that loves people.”

With an average attendance of 600 people, First Church of Christ hosts both traditional and contemporary services each Sunday morning. The church is located at 520 E. 10th St. in Washington.

For more information about the church and this weekend’s Christmas production, call 252-946-5236 or visit