From local tree farms to store parking lots, it is around this time each year that families are out searching for the perfect pine tree to place in their home for Christmas.
Some prefer to have fresh-cut trees while others simply go for artificial ones. Others even elect to have their trees flocked to resemble snow.
But the Christmas tree at Field Street Baptist Church is quite like any other — at over 30-feet tall the massive tree reaches the sanctuary ceiling and features more than 60 singers throughout its 10 tiers for an annual Living Christmas Tree presentation.
The 27th annual Living Christmas Tree is at 7 p.m. Friday and Dec. 8 and 3 p.m. Dec. 10. at 201 N. Field St. Admission is free.
This year’s theme is “He’s here.”
Josh Thomas, minister of music at FSBC, said the church has been presenting the Living Christmas Tree since 1987 as a way to bring people in the doors to share the news of Christ’s birth through drama, music and technology.
“The best part of the program I think is seeing the people’s faces who have never seen a tree like this before,” he said. “Just kind of the awe of seeing a 30-foot tree of lights on it with people singing. It’s a tradition that so many people in Cleburne and Johnson County have participated in.”
More than 100 people volunteer each year to build, decorate, set-up sound and lighting, sing and deconstruct the tree.
“We started planning back in mid-march, looking through music and trying to figure out a design plan,” Thomas said. “We picked music from multiple areas and will combine that into our program which combines a lot of lot of audio/visual, some videos, live drama, music, a live orchestra, full lighting as well as the live Christmas tree.”
This year the tree was put together in the sanctuary the Sunday after Thanksgiving.
“We assemble the steel which usually takes about six to seven hours,” Thomas said. “We get the structure built and then we come back the next three days and put up all the greenery and the garland. It takes about three days to get the tree from non-existent to ready for presentations.
Thomas said there are about 65 people singing on the tree this year.
“Total involved in the presentation from set up to volunteers, we are looking at about 120 people from our church and then people from the community,” he said. “We are bringing in an 18-piece orchestra this year so it is going to be a big show.”
Sally Smith has participated in the Living Christmas Tree every year since its inception.
“During that first year it was very exciting in that no one in this area had ever seen a living tree,” she said. “What I remember the most is the vastness of the construction and how large it was and to think that we were going to stand on it.
“The first presentation we ever had, when we loaded the tree it was dark and when we began to sing it lit up. There was just this gasp of air intake from the audience because they had never really seen anything like that. It gave us an opportunity to show them something they had never experienced before. This is a wonderful tool to share this gospel.”
The Living Christmas Tree has been seen by close to 50,000 people in 27 years.
“Our worship center holds about 600-650 and we generally fill it every night,” Thomas said. “Tens of thousands of people come to see it which is pretty awesome.”
Smith said she has been happy with attendance each year.
“We even went through a period a few years where we did four presentations instead of three because our crowds were so large,” Smith said. “We had a few years where we put it to rest because we thought people were getting tired of it, but so many people wanted it back and the performers wanted it back, too. The best thing to me is that through all the hard work is that we get to present the gospel in such a unique way.”
Thomas said the church is always looking for new people to join in singing with the choir on the tree.
Richard Sharp of Cleburne will sing in the presentation for the second time this year.
“This is the best way to get the gospel of Jesus Christ out to the public because of it being the Christmas season,” he said. “My favorite part is the music because sometimes it can be challenging, but I believe it is a way of showing that with the help of God anything is possible.”
The choir is open to anyone who is interested in singing; you do not have to be a member or attend Field Street Baptist Church.
The church provides practice CDs to help choir members learn the music, so you do not have to read or know anything about music.
Thomas said the church is also always looking for friendly individuals to help serve as ushers and greeters for our presentations. These are often the first people the attendees will see at the presentation.
“We are looking forward to sharing the true meaning of Christmas,” he said. “I think this year is going to be a little different from what people are used to. A lot of people think if they’ve seen the tree once they’ve seen it a thousand times. But this year it is going to be really different with all the different elements. It will be exciting.”
Doors open one hour before each event and pews fill up quickly.
“Be sure to dress warm,” Thomas said. “We usually have the air conditioning turned way down because it gets really hot for the singers in the tree.”
For more information, visit www.fieldstreetchristmas.com.