Doing a Musical This Christmas? What’s the Point (of view)?

Now that summer is officially here, it’s time to start thinking (if we haven’t already) about Christmas. As my former boss used to say “It’s the day-after-tomorrow”.  Figuratively speaking, of course. It will be here before you know it.

Most of us, instinctively start into our Christmas musical search routine without really reflecting on what we want to accomplish with a Christmas production – other than to tell the story in some way that trumps last year’s telling. As believers, Christmas is about celebrating the birth of Christ. Our desire to celebrate, and the joy we feel in doing so, comes from within because we have a personal connection with baby who was born in that manger. He has transformed our lives, so his coming was the very thing that was responsible for connecting us to God himself. That is worthy of celebration.  But what about those who don’t know Christ? What dothey celebrate at Christmas? Are they celebrating this “feel good” time of year? Peace on earth? Time off from work? Christmas parties and presents? Family gatherings? Why does this question even matter?

It matters because many of these unsaved people will be sitting in the audience as you present your Christmas program this year. You’ll present your musical to those who know God and those who don’t. What you present will be seen, heard and experienced through one of two filters or “lenses”:

1)    A deep understanding of, gratitude for and devotion to God for sending His Son and how that one sacrificial act has impacted your life for eternity.

2)    A warm, fuzzy story about a baby, shepherds, a star, angels, etc. that makes everyone feel good at this time of year, but is just an annual ritual that has no personal impact on my life.

Those who view through lens #1 are experiencing it in 3-D. There is a depth of understanding and comprehension that is alive and real at a spiritual level. There is an understood reality in every word, every song and every image.

Those who view through lens #2 see only portraiture (a pictorial representation or verbal picture – Webster’s). Like every Christmas card, magazine ad or billboard they see, this too is very one dimensional. To them, it’s just a story. There is no meaning beyond the telling. They don’t really understand the reason for the celebration. They may think they do, but without the Holy Spirit’s illumination, it’s just another colorful Christmas card to temporarily enjoy until the new year arrives, at which time it can be tucked back into the closet until next year.

So how do you change the lens through which the unbeliever experiences your Christmas presentation? I firmly believe that the answer is through the use of drama – or story, if you will. Story can do what music and narration alone cannot. The reason is that story involves characters.  A primary element of great storytelling is character arc. Character arc is a change in the inner nature of the character (for better or worse) over the course of the telling. It is within the dynamics of this arc that the viewer gets a glimpse of himself and his own true nature. As Robert McKee tells his screenwriting students – “Life teaches this grand principle: What seemsis not what is. People are not what they appear to be. A hidden nature waits concealed behind a façade of traits and the only way we come to know characters in depth is through their choices under pressure.” This is what a great story reveals and in that revealing, each viewer can see some element of himself in that character as he wrestles in his own mind with the onstage character’s choices. One of the first things taught in theater is the axiom “Don’t “tell”;  “show”.”

You can hear the words, “Jesus came to save sinners”, but until you can see yourself as one of those sinners, the words have little, if any, impact on you. The Holy Spirit can obviously quicken a person’s heart, but a real-life visualization via a character in a believable story helps to open the heart and mind to the reality that the character’s faults, weaknesses and fallen nature are ”mine” as well, because those weaknesses are portrayed in a real-life situation involving dilemmas, emotions and choices that are universal to every man. There is a lowering of our defensive wall when we see ourselves as we truly are. That’s when the Holy Spirit speaks and we can finally hear Him.

If your Christmas musical is outreach-oriented, may I suggest that you seriously consider doing a Broadway-style musical this Christmas? A musical with a story line and character-driven songs engages the audience in a way that cantatas and other non-dramatic musical programs don’t. If you’ve never done one, there’s no time like the present to discover the dynamic power of story. For starters, let me suggest the following:

A Perfect Christmas  (www.churchmusicals.com )

Jingle in the City  (www.churchmusicals.com )

The Gift (www.churchmusicals.com )

If I can be of help to you in your search, please contact me at churchmusicals@gmail.com

Have a Blessed Christmas!

Ed Kee

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