Zion UCC, Lehighton, will host its annual ecumenical Christmas cantata, "Christ Was Born for This," in Zion's sanctuary at 7:30 p.m. Sunday.

The cantata tells the story of the birth of Christ through readings and song. The cantata is accompanied by Zion's Festival Orchestra, a 20-piece ensemble with members from Pennsylvania and New Jersey.

This event is free to the public.

The cantata and festival orchestra are under the direction of Bradly R. Cressley, director of Music at Zion UCC.

This new cantata was written this year by husband and wife team, Dennis and Nan Allen. It is a combination of contemporary and traditional Christmas music as well as songs that were written and arranged specifically for the cantata.

Standout songs include Steven Curtis Chapman's "O Come, O Come, Emmanuel," Laura Story's "Blessings," "He Has Come for Us (God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen)," and the new title song by Nan Allen and Tommy Walker.

Also featured are such classics as "No More Night" and "Shine Jesus, Shine," as well as a congregational medley so everyone can participate.

This year's choir is composed of 90 singers that represent 24 churches and groups in Lehighton and surrounding communities.

Participants are from the following: Christ Evangelical Free Church, Lehighton; Crossroads Community Church, Lehighton; Dinkey Memorial Lutheran Church, Lehighton, Discovery Fellowship, Jim Thorpe; Emmanuel U.C.C., Bowmanstown; First Presbyterian Church, Lehighton; Good Shepherd Lutheran Church, Kreidlersville; and Hope of Christ Presbyterian Church, Tamaqua.

Also, Immaculate Conception Catholic Church, Jim Thorpe; Lehigh Valley School for the Performing Arts, Bethlehem; Lehighton High School, Lehighton; Life Church; People's EC Church, Lehighton; Pleasant Valley Assembly of God, Brodheadsville; Sacred Heart Catholic Church, Palmerton; St. John Neumann Regional School, Palmerton; St. John's Lutheran Church, Lehighton; St. John's Towamensing Lutheran Church, Palmerton; St. Josephs Church, Summit Hill; St. Katharine Drexel Parish, Lansford; St. Marks, Jim Thorpe; St. Matthew's Lutheran Church, Weissport; Ss. Peter and Paul Catholic Church, Lehighton; Trinity Lutheran Church, Lehighton; Zion Opera Workshop, Lehighton and Zion U.C.C., Lehighton.

Vocal soloists for the cantata are Amy Shelly, who will be featured in "Blessings," and Brent Harris, who has the solo in "O Come, O Come, Emmanuel."

Narrators for the event are Kathy Long and Judy Harris.

The anthem for the evening is "Let There be Peace on Earth" and it will feature Robin Heckman with American Sign Language. Presiding over the service is Pastor Chris DeForest from St. John's Lutheran Church, Mahoning Valley.

In addition to the cantata and the anthem, The Festival Orchestra will provide holiday music as preludes and postludes.

Selections include "Angels From the Realms of Glory", "Glorious Sounds of Christmas", "A Canadian Brass Christmas", "Christmas at the Movies", "All is Calm" which features Beth Cressley with a bassoon solo, and Leroy Anderson's "Christmas Festival."

Cindy Mack will be featured on Zion's grand pipe organ playing a version of "Silent Night" and "Swiss Noel."