Zion United Church of Christ's music department offered its annual Ecumenical Cantata, "One King," on Sunday to a large audience.

More than 70 musicians took part in the program, including a 23-piece orchestra.

The Zion Festival Orchestra set the night's tone with a selection of prelude music, including a collection of popular Christmas hymns and secular music such as "Christmas Rocks at the Pops," and selections from "The Polar Express."

Organist Cindy Mack offered "The Holly and the Ivy" on the piano.

The Rev. Allen Heckman welcomed the audience and led them through a call to worship.

"This is the reason for the season," he said, before reading Matthew 1:18-25, the story of the birth of Christ.

Choir members entered the sanctuary to the processional hymn "Angels From the Realms of Glory" while the audience sang along.

The cantata began with the upbeat and celebratory "Born to Reign" and "The Story of Love." The powerful voices of the combined choirs and orchestra soared through the nearly filled-to-capacity sanctuary.

Narrators Kathy Long and Judy Harris supplemented the musical selections by sharing the well-known Christmas story. Their narration began with the story of a tired Mary traveling to Bethlehem for the birth of her child and Herod's fear of the newborn King, and ending with Jesus' earthly ministry, crucifixion, and resurrection.

The youngest members of the cantata performance, Zion's Choraliers and Friends, joined the main choir for "A Manger is His Throne."

The voices of soloists were also highlighted in the peaceful "Starlight Lullaby" and "What Kind of King," featuring soloists Shannon Frycklund and Brent Harris. Ensemble members Martha Cox, Patricia Peters, Cindy-Lou Heiser, Elyse Kistler, Barbara Belon and Judy Grieg were featured in "Glory to the King."

Narrator Harris concluded her piece with a reminder to ponder the meaning of Christmas the next time you see a nativity scene.

"What child is this, who laid to rest on Mary's lap is sleeping?" she asked. "This is Christ the King."

The cantata ended with the majestic "I Bow Before You" and a "Child's Prayer," read by Amanda Yoder.

A freewill offering was taken to support the "In Dylan's Arms" fund. This fund was started two years ago in memory of Dylan Krum, a 15-year-old who passed away from cancer, and supports families facing a lengthy hospital stay during the illness of their child.

The offering was also dedicated to the memory of Gavin Krum, Dylan's 14-year-old brother, who passed this week after also losing a fight against cancer.

It was noted that the Ecumenical Cantata was founded 33 years ago by Paul and Linn Smith. Special thanks was given for their time and dedication to the program over the years.

Conductor Bradly Cressley thanked the crowd for attending, and noted that many audience members came up to him afterward to thank the choir and orchestra for the performance.

Cressley has been conductor of the Zion Festival Orchestra for five years.

"Hopefully everyone enjoyed it. They were saying that it kicks off the holiday season," he said.

"We're hoping more people will come out and join the cantata next year. Our goal next year is to fill not only the front of the church, but also the balcony, with singers. That would be incredible."

Church members taking part in the cantata included:

Emmanuel U.C.C. and Trinity Lutheran Church of Bowmanstown; and All Saints Episcopal Church, Christ Evangelical Free Church, Crossroads Community Church, Dinkey Memorial Lutheran Church, First Presbyterian Church, St. John's Lutheran Church, St. John's Towamensing Lutheran Church, St. Peter and Paul Catholic Church, Trinity Lutheran Church, and Zion U.C.C., all of Lehighton.

Also participating were church members from Bethany Wesleyan Church of Cherryville; Christ U.C.C., Ebenezer Evangelical Congregational Church, Immaculate Conception Catholic Church, all of Jim Thorpe; First U.C.C., Sacred Heart Catholic Church, all of Palmerton; St. Joseph's Church of Summit Hill; Calvary Episcopal Church, Hope of Christ Presbyterian Church, all of Tamaqua; and St. Matthew's Lutheran Church of Weissport.