Meaning of Christmas shines in ‘Jesus the Christ’

By CONNIE NOLEN / Community Columnist

“Dancing briefly in church tomorrow if you’re looking for something to do—shows at 3 and 6,” this text from a former student fueled delight. All I knew when I arrived at Pelham First Baptist the following day was that I would experience the joy of seeing a former student perform. Wrapped in this invitation were many other unexpected gifts.

Pelham First Baptist’s Celebration Choir and Orchestra were presenting “Jesus the Christ.” Two young women performed as narrators and young people experiencing Christmas as complete opposites. While one girl was focused on the spiritual meaning of Christmas, another was focused on the presents.

Throughout the show, the word presents was often exchanged for gifts—which made me laugh at my own memories. As a young mother, I always sang to my children. My older daughter asked me to sing about the gifts one night. She became frustrated when I could not remember a song about gifts. Eventually, I realized that her song request was actually, “Surely the Presence of the Lord is in This Place.”

After my explanation that “presence” is not the same word as “presents” to my child, I did concede that indeed both words do represent gifts to spiritual people. My child was content to hear her song; I was the one left to ponder word meaning.

During “Jesus the Christ,” one actress’s memorable line was “Gifts are for giving.” The gifts represented by this production were incredible. The talents on display included joyful dancing, convincing acting, heavenly singing, remarkable costuming, beautiful design and creation of banners and programs, precise film editing, thoughtful writing, devoted musicians, directing, orchestration, sound, lighting and collaboration. An unexpected delight was impassioned signing— a lovely young woman shared the beauty of the production through sign language for those who hear with their eyes.

As the production came to a close, the final, most memorable and obvious emotion filling the sanctuary was joy. Another show was slated to start in an hour—so this joy was not the joy of relief. This was the joy of Christmas. What a gift indeed!