by Elsie Walker
The story takes place at a time when people weren’t sure if they could trust anything. The valued counsel that seemed to once guide them was gone. For a long time, they held on to what they’d always believed; but as time passed, they wondered. When things seemed out of their control, could they trust that all would be well?
Though it might seem like modern day, the scene is the little town of Bethlehem and the story is the birth of the baby Jesus. That story will be brought to life through the talents of six area churches sharing songs, skits, puppetry, bell music and poetry. The 14th annual Christmas Arts program is set to be held on Dec. 4, at 5 p.m. at the Port Morris United Methodist Church in Landing. A free will offering will be taken.
The theme for this year’s program is “In God We Put Our Trust.” The story will share how Jesus’ mother, father, and the rest of those involved put their trust in God at a time when some wondered where’s God hand was in life.
During the annual event’s 14 years, various churches have shared their talents in telling the birth of Jesus. It is an intergenerational presentation with various age groups taking on roles. For some, it has become an annual tradition. One of the mainstays is the husband and wife team of John and Cathy Bingham, representing The Flanders United Methodist Church.
“Cathy and I have been doing this for a while now and it is one of the highlights of our holiday season,” said John Bingham. “We enjoy looking for new or special music and then sharing it with others. And it’s important to keep the story of Christ’s birth alive for our children to learn, understand and appreciate God’s love. We like how the art program brings together people with different ideas and talents to share in the telling of this important story.”
This year the Binghams will be doing “O Holy Night” and “What Child Is This.” In addition, the Flanders church’s choir will also be on hand, to sing “Go Tell it On the Mountain.”
Echoing Binghams’s comments about the program was Pam Laura, director of the children’s choir at St. James Episcopal Church in Hackettstown.
Another longtime participating group, Laura said, “We enjoy participating in the program because of its unique use of various forms of performance and wide age range of the performers to highlight the story of the nativity. It enriches the story while providing attendees and participants alike an opportunity to experience different forms of the performing arts.”
The children’s choir, made up of children ages four – 12, will be doing an original piece by Laura called, “Come Shepherds, Come Sheep.” A unique thing about this choir is that it is a singing and signing choir. In the past, St. James Episcopal had a deal ministry. It no longer does, but the choir keeps the signing tradition alive by signing its songs.
Also providing vocal music will be soloists and groups from St. Michael’s Roman Catholic Church in Netcong, Valley View Chapel in Long Valley, St. Margaret of Scotland Church in Morristown, and the host church.
Bell music will be provided by the Trinity Ringers of Trinity United Methodist Church in Hackettstown under the direction of Jill Fedon. The bell choir is quite accomplished and has played at some impressive venues.
“The Trinity Ringers performed with the Cross Border Orchestra of Ireland at Carnegie Hall in 2015; [they have] performed at Disney World through the Disney Performing Arts Program,” said Fedon. “As part of that trip, they also performed and volunteered at Give Kids the World, nonprofit “storybook” resort in Central Florida where children with life-threatening illnesses and their families are treated to week-long, cost-free vacations.”
Puppetry and skits done by members of the host church round out the program.
“At Port Morris United Methodist Church, December is the most special time of the year,” said Pastor Nick Petrov. “It is a busy and hectic time of preparation for the holidays, but it is also a time for our ecumenical Christmas Arts program.
“Through the program, we declare that we are touched personally by God’s love. The birth of Jesus is a profound and mysterious sign of God’s love for us. Each year, at the annual Christmas Arts program, the choir of Port Morris United Methodist Church, the puppet ministry, as well as the performers and soloists from the other churches make the joyful announcement that we can celebrate God’s love in unity despite the fact that we belong to different churches, denominations, confessions and faiths. This year, again, we will tell the Nativity story of Jesus’ love for all the earth. It is a privilege for Port Morris United Methodist Church to host such a joyful event.”