Hold Your Flame Higher

I got a glimpse of heaven this weekend. I had a part in a beautiful presentation of the Gospel.

Let me give you a quick recap of my years in the Church, just to preface how awe-inspiring this weekend was to me:

I grew up in a church called Southbrook. My parents started attending when I was in Kindergarten, so I have experienced all the church’s changes over the past twelve years as part of the congregation. I went through a period of discontentment with the church, angry at doctrinal things and desiring nothing more than the growing population to be more enthusiastic about the promises of God. Oftentimes I’d walk into church smiling and be met with dozens upon dozens of frowning faces. I had the nerve to get upset about the lack of joy I saw! How naive was I! How much had God still needed to grow me!

I am happy to say that all my complaining has ceased. God has brought me to a place where I look around at the things I disagree with in doctrine across all the denominations of Christianity – from Catholicism to Pentecostalism – and I think, “Wow, despite all our differences we still agree that Christ died, was resurrected, and now sits at the right hand of God. We have confidence in the fact that someday He will return and redeem this fallen world!”. All denominations of Christianity, despite our differences in worship, communion, teaching, etc, agree on the most essential, saving aspect of Christianity! How beautiful the way, despite all Satan’s attempts to destroy fellowship in the church, we are still united under the banner of Christ Jesus!

So, back to this weekend. Back to the present.

This year for our Christmas Eve service at Southbrook we decided to repeat last year’s service while incorporating a few new elements. In my opinion, as a part of last year’s service as well, the Christmas Eve service was one of the most incredible things I have ever been a part of. With the theme being the coming of Christ into the world as the coming of Light into the darkness, we used several different art forms to portray the birth of Jesus in the most artistic, “avant-garde” way possible. I wrote this blog post last year after rehersal but before being part of the Christmas Eve services:

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We’re bringing the light

“I’m on at Southbrook this weekend.”

this is Southbrook Christian Church’s lingo for “I’m part of the big room’s service this weekend in some aspect.”

This is my reality right now, and I’m completely thrilled about it. Simply because my buddy Jason Hills decided that I would be a good Mary character.

So here I am.

I’m on this weekend, Christmas Eve (of all weekends!!!!!!).

And tonight we had our rehearsal. It was so cool. Let me set the scene for you.

The place is Southbrook’s theater, a large, cavernous, dark hole filled with chairs. The room’s focal point is the stage, a giant hill covered from top to bottom in lights. Currently the stage is lit up to the max. Orange, purple, blue, yellow, and green lights flood the stage from the front, from above, and from below. Every foot is flooded with shades of lights mixing to create an ambient feel. The huge projection screen behind the band is continually projected with a different image according to what’s happening on stage. The images vary from a swinging light bulb to a starry night scene complete with occasional shooting stars flickering across the skyline. Hundreds of single light bulbs hang from the ceiling, casting their individual lights collectively. It’s beautiful. Although I definitely have moments when I want to rip about half the large amounts of shiny lights off the stage and take the screens down and have the band play with just white lights and the light bulbs hanging from the ceiling, I’m not in charge. I’m just a participant. A participant who’s glad to be there with every ounce of my being.

So anyways…that’s the scene. Then imagine a cool, pretty random cast of people. We have amazing tech guys, who can do anything imaginable in no time with the multitude of lights and sound-producing things we have. We have the band: Josh Moser (my internship mentor), sporting his trusty grey Reds hat, Lukey, the Music Director, tapping away on his keys and messing with the synth on his iPad, Jake Ittel, laughing as much as he’s playing bass, Alex Rector, who’s the closest person there to my age (and who totally kills the drums), Devyn Glista on electric guitar, looking as rock-star as ever, and Erin Berry, our only female vocalist, whose singing is lovely and balances out the whole male dynamic pretty well. We have Laura Fayette doing our intro skit, me doing another skit, Austin and Jordan doing a really cool sketch, and Carly painting. Then there’s Pete, narrating it all in this amazing storyteller’s voice. The way he speaks makes me hold onto every word. And finally, Jason Hills, our Director, who is constantly running back and forth between the tech booth and the stage to relay some new and important piece of information. This is the random cast of characters composing our Christmas Eve service.

My part is so much fun. I love every aspect of it. I play Mary, kind of a modern-day Mary. I’ll leave it at that as not to spoil it. please come. there are services at 1pm, 2:45pm, 4:30pm, and 11:00pm. 🙂

Jesus is the Light

We are the light to reach the world

We’re bringing the light

Christmas Eve @ Southbrook 2011.

IT’S GOING TO BE AWESOME.

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Back to THIS weekend. GOSH. I love reminiscing on the past!

After the Sunday services (because this year we decided on six services instead of the typical 4) I went home completely filled with passion and joy with what the Lord was doing in and through my church. Playing a small part in the Christmas Eve service, representing Mary, I made my lead pastor Charlie cry. When he told me he cried I was incredibly moved! I have looked up to Charlie forever, and my acting (despite my lack of dialogue) was able to rightly convey part of the beautiful Christmas story in such a way that he was moved! I knew if my lead pastor was moved surely some in the audience were too!

Coming in to this weekend, we had a goal of reaching at least 7,000 with the story of Christ’s birth. After the six services were over, we learned we witnessed to over 7,700. How incredible!

Perhaps the most moving part of the service for me was the candle lighting. I came out on stage while Charlie was still speaking at the end of the service, holding the first lit candle. Charlie lit his candle from mine, and my friends Emily Caldwell (who painted a lovely painting UPSIDE DOWN of the Nativity scene), Katie Crowley, and Ashley Harbour came out and lit their candles off mine, only to go out into the audience and light everyone else’s candles. I soon joined them, and found myself cheerily lighting candles from row upon row of those gathered. It was an amazing feeling, that of the infectious nature of light. It was deeply metaphorical.

Once everyone’ s candles were lit Charlie said “Look around. Look at what we can be to this dark world”. Everyone turned left and right, looking behind and in front of themselves. The whole auditorium was alight with the flame that originated with just one candle. It was stunning. I stood in the back of the auditorium after lighting candles, looking at the room from the very back as opposed to the stage. As Charlie spoke passionately, I felt my heart swell. I was home, or at least as close as I could get to home apart from heaven.

We’ll give You all the glory.

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Photo credit: Mark Lukey (the amazing bassist/pianist/sounds guy)
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Photo credit: Todd Moss
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Photo credit: Jason Hills
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