Christmas musical: family troubles, God's hope
LAWRENCEVILLE, Ga. (BP) -- Jenny watches television as her dad again comes home from work late -- hours late. He plops in his favorite chair and tries to read the newspaper as Jenny's mom goes off, ranting about her husband missing dinner and the long hours he's working.
A commercial plays on the family's television about a musical presentation at the mall and an appearance by Santa Claus.
"Can we go, can we go, Daddy? Can we pulleeeze go?" Jenny begs her father.
The parents' argument continues, then ends with a weeping young Jenny who says between sobs, "Please, please, I really need to see Santa this year."
Jenny's father reluctantly agrees.
Though fictional, the troubles in Jenny's family represent an all-too-familiar scenario, so Tim Chapman, minister of music at Colonial Woods Baptist Church in Lawrenceville, Ga., decided to write a skit about Jenny and her parents' troubled marriage as an introduction to the Colonial Woods' annual Christmas musical Dec. 12.
Chapman and his wife Alice were driving back from Florida when the idea struck him to write the script and to compile and arrange the selections for the musical as well as to compose an original song.
Alice Chapman played Jenny's mother. Other characters included Colonial Woods' pastor Don Mulkey as Jenny's father, Jake; Katelyn Berger as Jenny; and Bill Wells as Santa.
Driving north on the interstate, Tim verbalized the script as Alice typed it on a laptop computer. "God just gave it to me; it really was a God thing," said Chapman, who is webmaster for Truett-McConnell College in Cleveland, Ga.
The Colonial Woods musical undergoes a scene change as ushers and deacons transform the platform from a family living room to risers at a mall. Then the ring-ting-tingling of tiny bells peals from the back of the auditorium. The church's choir members meander up the middle aisle ringing bells and shaking hands of congregants.
As the singers assemble on the platform, Chapman welcomes everyone to the musical presentation at the "mall." The church choir-turned-community choral group sings, "It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year" at the start of a feel-good selection of secular and religious Christmas songs after which Chapman introduces Santa Claus, who has been in the church foyer.
Santa waltzes down the center aisle to a rendition of "Santa Claus is Coming to Town" by Point of Grace. Some children reach for Santa, others shrink from him. But the jolly old elf dances undaunted to the platform and receives an ovation from the crowd.
On the platform is an antique sleigh Wells owns and uses when he plays Santa Claus for children in local hospices.
Saint Nick mounts his Christmas seat as Jenny and her family stand in line, ready to meet the man wearing the red suit trimmed in white fur.
First in line is Jenny, obviously distraught. She tells Santa she has but one wish: "Santa, can you make Mommy love Daddy again? They've been fighting a lot lately and I'm afraid. All I want for Christmas is for our family to be happy."
Santa says the wish is too much for him, but not for Jesus, the only one who "can fix broken hearts."
"Jesus?" Jenny replies. "I thought you were the one who could make wishes come true. I bet you're not even the real Santa are you?" she says, pulling on Santa's long white whiskers.
"Ho, Ho, hold on a second. Let me tell you a little story about Santa and Jesus," he responds.
Santa leaves his sleigh and sings "When Santa Claus Got Saved," a song popularized by country gospel singer/songwriter James Payne.
After singing, Santa tells Jenny that Jesus can change people's hearts. "Have you asked Him for your Christmas wish?" he asks.
"Well why don't you ask Him right now?"
"I don't know what to say. I don't know how to pray yet."
"Just ask Him like you asked me."
Jenny then sings the original song Tim wrote titled "Jenny's Prayer."
"I ask you today, Lord,
Please answer my prayer, Lord,
And don't let Christmas begin,
Till Mommy loves Daddy,
And everyone's happy,
And we are a family again."
Jenny's parents exchange conciliatory looks as Santa tells Jenny, "Jesus loves you and He loves your family. You keep praying and I'll pray too, and we'll see what Jesus can do."
Santa hugs Jenny and calls for the next person in line. Jessica, Jenny's mother, climbs into the sleigh.
She offers Santa a musical request, too, as she sings "Grown-up Christmas List."
Some of the song's lyrics especially reveal the hurting heart of a wife unappreciated:
"Well heaven surely knows
That packages and bows
Can never heal a hurting human soul
No more lives torn apart
That fights would never start
And time would heal all hearts
And everyone would have a friend
And right would always win
And love would never end
This is my grown-up Christmas list."
The couple once divided appears united as Jessica concludes her song, and then she says, "Thank you, Santa for helping us see what really matters."
"You're welcome, Jessica," Santa replies. "I hope you and Jake and Jenny have a very, very Merry Christmas."
The musical ends. Mulkey encourages the crowd regarding spiritual matters and offers an invitation to respond not to the skit but to how God has used the presentation to point observers to Him.
The program created "quite a buzz at Colonial Woods," Chapman told Baptist Press. The church set a high-attendance record of almost 140 people in worship -- the largest crowd in the last seven years for a small church that consists predominantly of retirement-age members.
Most Sundays will garner only four or five children at the small church in suburban Atlanta, Chapman said. "But there were three young families with children that the church had been praying for. And the parents of those families told some church leaders that they would be back."
For Tim, that makes all his efforts worthwhile.
Norm Miller is director of communications at Truett-McConnell College in Cleveland, Ga., which is affiliated with the Georgia Baptist Convention.