Christmas time, for many of us, is ALL about the carols, Christmas trees, and streets lined with lights. I have been blessed to have grown up in a church that also would celebrate Christmas by having their choir perform a Christmas Cantata every year. It was the highlight of the whole Christmas Season for me. A cantata is a mini-concert. In my experience, the choir sings some amazing carols, new arrangements of Christmas classics, and some brand new seasonal music….with a narrative woven in-between the songs telling the Christmas story but also challenging listeners to find the true meaning and Spirit of Christmas.
In the Fall of 2013, I found myself working as the Music Director at Grace United Methodist Church and wanted to do a Christmas Cantata. I approached Charlotte Heaton, the director of Music for Murrayville UMC (and the church I had grown up in, where I experienced my very first Christmas Cantata) about combining my newly restored choir with her strong and vibrant choir. It was a huge success for both choirs and something that we’ve been blessed enough to repeat again for the third year in a row!
This year, the two church choirs will be presenting the Christmas Cantata, Christmas In His Presence: The Timeless Story of His Coming by Marty Hamby and Deborah Craig-Claar. This choir and orchestra celebration is full of moments such as a congregational carol sing, responsive readings, and captivating solos. You will find the joy and peace in this musical for the season. The well-known songs and new titles will fill your heart with the excitement bring you closer to love and grace. The congregational sing-a-long includes the carols: “Angels From the Realms of Glory/Angels We Have Heard On High/Hark! The Herald Angels Sing”. There are new arrangements of praise choruses: “All Rise”, “In His Presence”, and “We Are Standing On Holy Ground”. New songs that could become Christmas classics include: “2,000 Decembers Ago” and “Heaven’s Child”.
The Cantata is performed each year at both respective churches. This year, there are options to hear the Cantata during the worship service time or at a special afternoon performance. December 13, Christmas In His Presence will be performed at Grace UMC at 2:00p.m. featuring soloists: Sandy Heaton, Sherri Mitchell, and Janelle Bishop with Narration provided by Lois Herbst and Jamie Potter. For more information, contact the church office Monday-Thursday, 9a.m. – 1p.m. at 217-245-9521. December 20, you can hear the Cantata at Murrayville UMC during their Sunday Morning Service at 10:15 a.m. Soloists include: Lisa Middleton, Jaelyn, Teagan, and Belinda Whitacre, Kenleigh Megginson, Chris Lakin, and Becky Fitzgerald. For more information regarding this service, contact the church office at 217-882-4041
So, return to a sense of wonder… not through the presence of familiar objects or surroundings but through the divine Spirit of Christmas through music. Just as Mary and Joseph gathered in a stable to celebrate the birth of Christ, you can gather to rediscover the true reason to celebrate with Christmas In His Presence.