For the first time in recent memory, First Baptist Church of Killeen is presenting two performances of its annual Christmas cantata so that the entire community can join and enjoy the Holiday Spirit.
Another first is that this year’s narration has been written by the church’s music minister, Rief Kessler. This is his fifth time to lead the Christmas musical presentation at the church. The presentation is called “Salvation is Created: a story of redemption” and features the musical talents of well over one hundred singers and musicians.
“We will have more than sixty in the choral production and forty in the orchestra, which consists of strings, brass, woodwinds, percussion from as far away as Waco, Austin, Temple and local talent as well,” Kessler said. Members of the Temple Symphony Orchestra players will also join the performance.
The two-night performance is free to the community and the annual tradition has been expanded specifically to reach the community. “In years past, we’ve had our performance on Sunday evenings, which often times meant that other churches could not come and join us. We wanted to open it up to the community and extend our reach by having it on two nights, at 6 p.m. on both December 12 and 13.”
Kessler said that he selected the compilation of the music from Fantasia Noel by Joshua Spacht, and Kessler actually wrote the narration. “The narration says that God created salvation not as some mystical being but in the midst of His own creation. The salvation message is so much more than shepherds in the field, and angels in the air and babe in Bethlehem. All of that is important, but it is so much more. God actually created salvation itself, Christ walked among us as God and man, and Christ offered salvation to us.”
The narration begins at the end of Israel’s reign and is almost depressing, Kessler said. Jerusalem has fallen, the walls were breached, her king was hunted down, her people exiled. The people were no longer the politically strong Israel and that’s the atmosphere Christ came to. And today, in 2015, we are still living in the same way, we are exiled because of our sin, we are outside of our relationship God wants us to have, and the same salvation is offered to us.”
Another first for Kessler is that he is directing a portion of Handel’s Messiah, “The Hallelujah chorus is performed more than any other choral work, performed every Christmas and Easter, and we are happy to have that as a part of our finale, but I have never led it until this year and I am excited that it will figure prominently in our presentation.”
One thing that will be familiar is the narration by Evan Hodson, who has been a mainstay in the Easter and Christmas performances. “Evan Hodson has a great booming ‘Darth Vader’ voice and he is going to do a great job.” The music will also be familiar, Kessler said, with selections to include “O Holy Night,” “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing,” “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen,” and of course Handel’s Hallelujah chorus.
“The cost is zero dollars, so bring your entire congregation, come as families, and the performance will last right at an hour, beginning at 6 o’clock, Saturday December 12 and Sunday December 13.” Kessler said that more information as well as portions of previous years’ performances can be found at www.fbckilleen.com/catata.
First Baptist Church is located at 3310 South W.S. Young, across the street from Vive Les Arts and the Special Events Center.
Contact: Music Minister Rief Kessler, 254-634-6262; Pastor: Dr. Randy Wallace