Here’s my contribution to Marg’s and Kailana’s Christmas Advent Tour – my most memorable and meaningful Christmas, devoted to bringing the simple truth of Christmas – love – to the neighbourhood.
One of the first things I did after getting baptized mid this year was to join the church choir. Besides reading, and blogging, singing is my other love. I’m no stranger to choir singing … in fact have done this in my school days and nursing days. Imagine my excitement when I found out that the music ministry is putting up a Christmas Musical – The Christmas Shoes – as a celebratory and evangelical outreach to the community.
This dramatic musical is inspired by the no. 1 Hit Single of the same name from contemporary Christian group NewSong, whose songwriter Eddie Carswell was in turn inspired by a its story which was circulating in the Internet in 1999. NewSong’s “The Christmas Shoes” reigned as the no. 1 on Billboard’s Adult Contemporary Chart in a record-setting three weeks of its hitting the airwaves in 2000.
This touching story of a little boy and his quest to find the perfect pair of shoes for his dying mother to wear to heaven at Christmas is adapted for theatrical production by Donna VanLiere, who was commissioned by St. Martin’s Press to write a novel based on the song. The book sold out two weeks before Christmas when it was released in October 2001 with a 300,000 first printing, and eight additional prints.
The 50-minute musical production takes the audience through the lives of two families. The well-off Laytons seem to have it all, but Robert is so obsessed with his work he neglects his family so much so his marriage is on the brink of breaking up. The humble Andrews may not have all the things that wealth could buy but they’re close-knit and happy except that the mother, Maggie is terminally ill and may not survive Christmas. A chance meeting between Robert and Nathan at the mall changes Robert’s perspective and makes him realize that the greatest gift he has is family and their love. For our church production, we adapted some of the scripts to give it local context.
There are familiar classic carols “Deck the Halls”, “Jingle Bells” and “Joy to the World” and new songs written by Carswell and another NewSong member, Michael O’Brien such as “Sing Noel”, the opening song, and the moving “As the World Slept” and “I Believe in Christmas” – all my favourites. Then, there’s the hilarious “You’re a Mean One, Mister Grinch”, which will bring a gleam to any child familiar with the Seuss classic, and used in this musical by Robert’s subordinates to describe him. Of course, there’s the hit song, “The Christmas Shoes” which brings tears to my eyes whenever I hear our soloist Kevin sings it with so much emotion.
The choir has actually been practicing most of the songs on our own. We haven’t heard the character Robert (played by Kevin) sang the song. When we finally came together for our first rehearsal a few weeks before Christmas Eve, I was completely blown away by the song and the way Kev infused it with so much of his feelings that tears started rolling off my face (I’m tearing up even as I type!!). Watching the players on stage, I was really moved by the unaffected way the child acting as Nathan played out his part and delivered his lines effortlessly and naturally. The same emotions carried through from the rehearsals to the actual performance on the 24th.
That Sunday evening, I was more excited than nervous to be part of this Christmas outreach. I simply lost myself in the music and the message of the play and put my heart and soul into, trusting that God will speak to the audience through our performance, and perhaps touch a few more hearts. This is truly my most memorable Christmas todate. The musical really makes your heart melt. The songs are simple yet meaningful. I know I promised Marg a video clip, but my video cam battery died when I tried downloading to edit. Pray that I can get the recording downloaded. My hubby focused on the choir mostly, so am afraid the play itself will have to wait.
Meanwhile, here’s an excerpt of the song “The Christmas Shoes”:
Sir, I want to buy these shoes for my Mama, please
It’s Christmas Eve and these shoes are just her size
Could you hurry, sir, Daddy says there’s not much time
You see she’s been sick for quite a while
And I know these shoes would make her smile
And I want her to look beautiful if Mama meets Jesus tonight
And my favourite lines from “I Believe in Christmas”:
I don’t understand all the pain in life that happens,
I know God never promised that I would,
But, I know He had a plan long before I had a problem;
And I know that He will work it all for good.
‘Cause even though I’ve never seen Him,
He lives inside my heart I know.
He’s the miracle that came to us two thousand years ago.
You can listen to samplers of NewSong’s rendition, and read the book synopsis while I attempt to bring you a clip. Oh, this story stirred such a sensation CBS even made it into a TV drama starring Rob Lowe in the title role of Robert Layton. Hallmark channel was screening this when we reached home that night after the performance … a fitting closure to my already blessed Christmas this year.