The Ben Salem U.C.C. Senior Choir shared a touching reminder of the "reason for the season" with their annual Christmas Cantata this weekend.
The cantata, "Thou Shall Call His Name … Jesus," told the Christmas story from the perspective of those who witnessed it, including the shepherds, wise men, Mary and Joseph; and those living around the time of Jesus' birth who longed for the promised coming of a savior.
"I am so glad to see a full church," said the Rev. Michael McGowan, pastor at Ben Salem, as he welcomed the congregation and guests to the service. "I know how hard the choir worked on this cantata. It's going to be a wonderful performance."
In addition to guiding the congregation through a short worship service, McGowan also offered a prayer for those affected by the violence in Newtown, Conn. last week.
The cantata began with the well-known "Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silence," performed by choir member Gerald Burkett. The congregation then joined the choir to sing "Come, Thou Long Expected Jesus."
The performance included narration and actors portraying the Christmas story. Early in the cantata, a Jewish couple was seen discussing the violence and suffering shortly before the birth of Christ, and their longing for peace and the coming of the promised Messiah.
The choir then performed "Lift Up Your Voice," a cheerful reminder that peace and hope were coming on Christmas Day.
Other musical selections told the story of Mary and Joseph's visits from an angel, who explained that Mary would give birth to a child, and "Thou Shall Call His Name … Jesus." Mary wondered why she of all women was chosen for the task of raising Jesus, but accepted the task and vowed to praise God.
The final portion of the cantata reflected on the darkness in our world, and the light that is symbolized by the Christmas story and season.
"Let us imagine that we are sitting in darkness, which symbolizes the evil in which we live," said McGowan. "The darkness reminds us that we live in a world that desperately needs the light. Jesus came into the darkness of the world and brought it light."
As the choir sang "Jesus, The Light of the World," cast members stood at the front of the sanctuary with unlit candles. One by one, they passed the flame from wise man to shepherd, from Mary to Joseph, until each cast member held a brightly lit candle.
The congregation then joined the choir for the singing of "Joy to the World."
The Ben Salem Senior Choir has been offering a cantata each Christmas for more than 30 years. This year's cantata was directed by Audrey Milan and accompanied by choir director and organist Adele Kunkle. Cantata soloists included Gerald Burkett, Al Baker, Barbara Snowberger, Dayle Smith, Shirley Frantz, Bob Keller and Sue Messina.