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Singing Christmas tree returns along with Nativity scene

Posted: December 6, 2017 - 2:04am

Tis the season to be jolly as Abilene Baptist Church is gearing up for its annual Singing Christmas Tree.

Four presentations of Abilene's 39th annual Singing Christmas Tree are set for 7 p.m. Friday, Dec. 9, Saturday, Dec. 9 at 3 p.m. and 7 p.m. and 3 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 10.

Tickets are free; however, there is a $1 service fee for those who download the tickets at myabilene.org/sct and on iTickets.com. Tickets can be picked up at the church office, 3917 Washington Road, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. thru Thursday and 9 a.m. to noon on Friday.

These tickets go to thousands - specifically more than 1,100 people can be seated in the church - of Christmas performance enthusiasts and churchgoers. In the past, though, 4,500 to 6,000 people have attended the performances at the church.

Cheryl Mattox is a choir member who has been a part of the annual singing since its inception.

"It's exciting; it really is," Mattox said. "It's a lot of work. You're just really excited and it gets the whole church involved. People that aren't in the choir can help with putting the tree together. There are people that do the parking lot during the performances. It's just involves everybody."

Close to 100 singers will be positioned within a 30-foot wooden Christmas tree, which is decorated with live greenery, lights, as well as ornaments.

This year's theme is titled On the Air ... It's Christmas! The theme centers on the transformation of a tough news radio host who has a Scrooge-like mentality to a person who finally accepts the real meaning of Christmas.

This year's story was written by Katheryn Gravenor, the daughter of Associate Pastor Tommy Sunderland. Martinez Elementary School music teacher Lisa Sunderland, the wife of Tommy, will play a huge part.

The audience can expect performers to bring back songs from prior years while incorporating other music. There will also be a Nativity scene.

The Christmas production started in 1978 thanks to former Minister of Music Tom Albright, Sunderland said.

"He started it and it has become one of the CSRA's big Christmas traditions," he said. "You hear people say all the time that Christmas starts when people come to the tree. That's what I heard a bunch of folks say."

Sunderland said Albright's vision started with the Christmas trees built from scratch. Folks would go into the woods and cut the greenery. By year three, an engineered platform was purchased from Houston, which is the same platform used for today's production.

"The preparation is a lot different from when we did the first tree," Mattox said. "They actually built the structure, and we would go out and cut the greenery and put in the tree, but since then everything is now ordered. All the greenery is now ordered and it has to be sprayed with flame retardant. The ornaments every year can change. They are beautiful and cover the whole tree."

By December 1991, Sunderland said a live orchestra was incorporated. Not long after, a pre-tree performance was implemented. This performance, he said, included lighter-fare songs leading up to the annual performance.

With the 39th annual Singing Christmas Tree set to begin next week, Sunderland said he will begin brainstorming ideas for the historic 40th annual event next year amid the three-day extravaganza.

"It's important for us because we believe that Christmas is about Jesus," Sunderland said. "This is an event out of all the different kinds of events going on in our community that really points to Christmas being about Jesus. There is a lot of fun that comes with the season. All those things are enjoyable, but it's also important to remember why we celebrate Christmas - because Jesus was born. Jesus said he came to seek and save the lost. It's important because Jesus said he came to seek and save the lost."

 

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