Photo credit to Estero Christmas Celebration.
Lights, sights and sounds of Christmas will abound onstage at Estero’s only community Christmas production. Each year, more than 100 volunteers from River of Life Assembly of God design, rehearse and produce the Estero Christmas Celebration as the church’s “gift to the community.”
“At River of Life Assembly of God, we love Christmas!” says Pastor Todd Weston. “We really do! We love the sights and sounds of Christmas. We love the music, the lights, the decorations and all of the fun traditions of the holiday season. But most of all we love the Christ of Christmas.” River of Life put on its first Estero Christmas Celebration in 2008, and the annual holiday event has grown in popularity and grandiosity each year. This year’s show will run four consecutive nights, Dec. 11-14, with matinee and evening performances on Saturday and Sunday.
“The show that first year was very small, but everyone loved it,” recalls Paul David Weston, Worship Arts Director and producer of Estero Christmas Celebration. “It has since become a Christmas tradition for many in the area, and we continue to see a larger demand.” Last year, more than 1,200 people attended the free Christmas celebration during five showings. This year, the church is adding a Thursday night performance, as well as some new thematic elements and special effects. “This year, it’s going to be a lot of silver and crystal and ice,” says Publicity Director Julie Lawrence.
As always, there will be “snow” for the kids to play in after the show. Broadway-style special effects and set design are all handled in-house. At least half the church is involved in some way with the elaborate annual production. “We have people in the church with so many talents,” notes Lawrence. “We have construction people to do the set building, we have a fantastic interior designer, and we have lots of singing talent and choreography.”
Amid the dazzling light displays and catchy numbers, humor is sprinkled, along with some quieter moments. The Snow Baby Bell Choir is always a hit, with the cuteness of the church’s Early Childhood children. The Estero Christmas Celebration is an opportunity for River of Life to extend its family atmosphere to the greater community, says Paul David. “Everyone is always warmly welcomed,” he says, from the time they enter the auditorium to the cookies and lemonade after the show. “Some of my favorite outcomes are when people’s lives are changed by what they experienced during the event.”
A favorite memory from the 2013 production was the humorous Fiesta Song: “The cast was legitimately having a blast and so was the audience,” Weston recalls. “Smiles and laughter came freely as the fiesta music played and performers picked volunteers to start a conga line!” River of Life is all about bringing families together, he adds. The Christmas show gives that opportunity and allows church members to connect in a meaningful way with each other and the community at large.
“The purpose is to bring families and generations together – to remind us all that every generation has something to offer the other, and that Jesus offers each of us a new life in Him,” Weston says. “Jesus loves people. His church is made up of people. And, people are ultimately what makes the Estero Christmas Celebration the special, one-of-a-kind event that it is.” “We invite the community to sit back and enjoy all the fun of the Estero Christmas Celebration, and the true message of Christmas,” adds Pastor Todd, “that God sent His Son into the world so that through Him we might have hope, peace with God and life everlasting!”