WE ARE HOMETOWN NEWS.

AGAWAM — Bethany Assembly of God won’t have the traditional “singing Christmas tree” this year, but the church is performing a free Christmas show called “He’s Here,” detailing the birth of Jesus through music and drama.

For the past 47 years, the church’s Christmas presentation was centered around a massive metal “tree” in the sanctuary on which carolers would be arrayed like ornaments. The chorus would be accompanied by an orchestra. Sometimes, a story would be told.

Camellia Grace Matthes, Bethany’s worship pastor and conductor of “He’s Here,” said renovations underway this year make putting up the tree impossible. The sanctuary will be getting a new sound system, the walls and lights will be ripped out and replaced, and the structure of the stage will change.

“We don’t have the capacity to build the singing tree in the other room that we’re going to be doing our presentation in this year,” she said.

It’s only a temporary change. The singing Christmas tree will return when renovations are complete.

Described as “Bethany’s gift to the community,” “He’s Here” will tell the story of Jesus’ birth from the perspective of the people of Bethlehem, both from residents of the city and people arriving, like Mary and Joseph, for the Roman census. The story will be told through a mix of carols and acted scenes.

“It’s having a unique perspective on the birth of Jesus,” Matthes said.

Senior Pastor Stephen Thee will briefly discuss the message of the show, as well as its purpose for existing: to tell people that Jesus is the savior of the world.

“He’s our hope and peace and joy,” said Matthes. “We want to share that with others.”

Preparations for the show began in July. Matthes met with a group of people to discuss their plans for the year, decide on a theme, and select music for the show. The story itself was written by the church’s drama director, Marilene Allen.

The event is free to attend, but the church will be accepting donations. Christmas presentations raise money for the church’s missions that build schools in Latin American countries. Team members pay for their own trip, so all of the donated money goes toward the materials and equipment needed for building the school.

Last year, approximately 2,000 to 3,000 people came for Bethany’s Christmas show, which raised between $12,000 and $15,000. The church is hoping the same amount come this year. Matthes said that people come from all over to see the event.

“I just hope people come and they’ll get to experience this presentation,” she said. “All of the people have worked very hard.”

Performances of “He’s Here” began earlier this month, and continue at 7 p.m. Friday, Dec 8; 6 p.m. Saturday, Dec 9; and both 3 and 6 p.m. Sunday, Dec 10. The 90-minute performances take place in the Lighthouse Auditorium, located in the back of the church at 580 Main St., Agawam.

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