Living Christmas Tree returns to First Church

Published 7:34 pm Thursday, December 12, 2019

Over the past 22 years, First Church of Christ has put on a Christmas concert like no other. This weekend, the church’s Living Christmas Tree returns with “An Unexpected Christmas.”

Seventy-one singers and 17 actors will take the stage and Christmas Tree-shaped podium for performances on Friday, Saturday and Sunday at 7:30 p.m. in the Family Life Center.

Since its first Living Christmas Tree performance in 1991, the choir has more than doubled in size, as has the “tree” stage. Now it takes more than 175 First Church members — ranging in age from 8 weeks old to more than 80 years old — to put on the show, with teams handling audio, lighting, video, parking, greenery “fluffing,” ushering and tree set-up, which includes stringing the 15,000 lights decorating it.

While it takes four months of practice, four weeks of scenery construction and four hours to take the set down, it’s worth it, according to former First Church minister and Living Christmas Tree Director Steve Hill — because the message lasts for an eternity.

The last Living Christmas Tree performance was in 2015, and this year, church leadership asked Hill to come back from retirement to direct it once again.

“It has been a blessing,” Hill said. “It has really been a lot of work, but a lot of blessings.”

AN UNEXPECTED SCENE: Glenn Crocker (right) and Amy Arnold (second from left) sing a duet in this scene from “An Unexpected Christmas” while co-stars Molly Emanuel (left) and Taylor McRoy (second from right) look on. (Vail Stewart Rumley/Daily News)

“An Unexpected Christmas” is set at an airline gate; its actors anxiously awaiting a delayed flight. A young family, a widowed woman, a businessman and a college student on his way to spend Christmas in the Bahamas with friends are some of the characters who make unexpected connections while stuck in the airport during the holidays. Interspersed with each scene are solos by main characters and songs performed by the entire choir, from traditional pieces about the birth of Christ to the whimsical, such as an ode to joys of coffee — and the need for it due to the circumstances. Ultimately, it’s a story about unexpected things happening and helping people to see the real meaning of Christmas, according to Hill.

“None of those folks were expecting to be there, but they took those unexpected events and turned them to have a positive and joyous Christmas,” Hill said. “In life, there’s a lot of unexpected things come up, and if we rely on God, he will bless us.”

“An Unexpected Christmas” is free and open to the public — First Church offers it as a gift to the community.

“We want people in our area to not only enjoy a wonderful evening, but to also receive the message that in life, unexpected events happen, but God blesses through His Son. It is our hope that the community will accept our invitation,” Hill wrote in a press release.

First Church of Christ is located at 520 E. 10th St. in Washington.