One of my favorite and most gratifying moments on any stage, anywhere, was Christmas In The City 2016. That was the year I got to sing a duet with my middle son Ryder. It was one of the highlights of my life. I will never forget that moment. He was ten years old. We sang the song “Let There Be Peace On Earth.” Little did we know that only a few short weeks after that highlight moment, would come one of the scariest moments of my life, also with Ryder. That was the night we thought he was dying in the midst of a full-blown seizure.
I will never forget turning him on his side, holding him in my arms, and praying one of the most desperate prayers I have ever prayed, as my wife was calling 911. Over and over I cried out, “Lord, please don’t take my boy.” I’m not sure how theological my prayer was in that moment, but those words were the only words I could utter in my desperation at the time.
Thankfully, Ryder recovered from that seizure and has been well since. It has always struck me that we sang that song, “Let There Be Peace On Earth” that Christmas, and yet, just a few weeks later, on one fateful night, there would be anything but peace in our lives. Despite the apparent despair of that moment, it did not change the overall truth of that song we sang. There was still peace, and regardless of the outcome, there would still be peace, because Jesus had us in His arms. While praying that desperate prayer that night, I knew this truth, and it is the only thing that allowed me to hold it together in that moment, while everything and everyone else around me was breaking loose.
The very next year, I wanted him to sing another song, simply because I wanted it to be a statement of God’s faithfulness and our trust in Him. The song was much more lighthearted, and most who saw the show the next year in 2017 were unaware of the story, but still, there were many who were aware. It was a story behind the story.
Every year that we do Christmas In The City, the show is littered with stories behind the story. There is always the part of the show that is presented out on stage. A story that points to the Gospel and to the fact that Jesus came to make everything new. But behind that obvious story being played out on stage, there are multiple stories being played out in the lives of each cast member. They are individual stories of life being brought to dead places that come together to collectively tell the same story.
Some of the years, we overtly put those stories on display and make them part of the show. Other years, they are less visible. But make no mistake, for every person on that stage for Christmas In The City, you can be sure that they have been changed by the power of the Gospel they are working together to communicate in such a creative and powerful way.
There is the time where the evil character Bane was actually the kid who was supposed to be aborted, but became the preacher in real life. There was the time when the character Satan was played by the former alcoholic who had been set free from his chains. There was the mom whose children were never supposed to survive the womb and are walking miracles today. There was the mom whose child almost drowned. There was the kid who overcame bulimia and eating disorders. There was the guy who survived cancer. There was the couple who almost gave up on their marriage. On and on they go.
There are stories of the lonely widows sewing together costumes. There are those who battle depression and anxiety who push through their fears for the honor of proclaiming the glory of the Gospel. And there is the story of the little kid who sang “Let There Be Peace On Earth” but found himself in a situation that felt like anything but peace, and yet, there was the peace of God even still.
From backstage to front of stage, there are stories of broken lives that have been redeemed and made whole. Most of these stories remain lodged in the deep storage places of the inner heart and soul. Many of them never make the headlines. But make no mistake, in some way, shape, or form, they are on full display every year at this time through an event called Christmas In The City. A Production featuring broken people who have been made new by the life-changing grace of God. A Production filled with people telling a greater story, that includes each one of their own individual stories. There is nothing else like it. I hope you will be able to join us this year, and become part of the story.