More than 400 people braved snow-packed roads and the threat of additional inclement weather to be a part of the Grace Church’s Christmas Eve service.
These adventurous souls were greeted at the high school auditorium by a brass ensemble playing a collection of jazzy holiday favorites. D’Ann Artis, Rick Artis, Dan Burch and Jared Burch performed a variety of tunes including “Joy to the World,” “Angels We Have Heard on High” and “Go, Tell it on the Mountain.”
After a brief word of welcome by pastor of family ministries Todd Shulda, the 20-plus voice choir, under the direction of Dan Burch and accompanied by Venita Burch, premiered “The First Christmas — A Most Unusual Story.” Featuring a cast and crew of more than 20, the story interspersed a variety of dramatic readings, choral anthems and vocal selections with a dramatic presentation of the traditional Christmas story.
The Grace choir opened the program with “Come Emmanuel,” an invitation to the promised Messiah. Tiffany Brunson, as Mary, Matthew Brunson as Joseph, and pastor of worship and creative arts, Jason Rose, as the Angel, announced the coming of the Christ child with “The Lord is With You.” The Grace choir transformed into the heavenly choir as the shepherds received the good news in “Gloria.” Portraying three of the shepherds, Dennis Burch, Jared Burch and Jason Rose proclaimed this news in, “I Have Seen the Light.” The choir set the stage of Christ’s birth with, “Kneeling at the Manger.” Tiffany and Matthew then beheld their holy Child in “I’m Holding Love in My Arms.” “Carol of the Kings” announced the coming of the Magi, again featuring Dennis Burch, Jared Burch and Jason Rose. These Magi closed this portion of the service with “We Come to Worship You.” The story narrative tied the segments together and was presented by Jon Johnson and D’Ann Artis. Direction, staging and costuming for the production were provided by Michael DeWinter. The text was written by Rick Artis. A collaborative effort created the set, which featured a magnificent backdrop by Sabine Baeckmann-Elge.
After the children’s’ choir, under the direction of Kathy Faber, took the stage and stole the hearts of many by singing a trio of well-known Christmas songs, Senior Pastor Jeff Daley asked the big question of the evening, “Where’s the Beef?” Using the famous Wendy’s commercial with the same theme as the backdrop, Jeff asked the audience to examine their own lives in light of the message of the first Christmas. He explained that simply having the ability to perform the day to day tasks of life did not mean anyone was alive spiritually. He showed how adding this spiritual element requires an encounter with this special Baby, who eventually gave His life for all. In closing, Jeff challenged each person to see Jesus, not just as the Child in the Manger, but also as Savior of the world. He then invited them to make Him personal Savior as well.
A time of refreshment and fellowship followed the service, before the congregation made its way home for a most blessed Christmas.