Lights go out for Living Christmas Tree

 Highland Baptist Church in Grove City will put on its last performance of the Living Christmas Tree. The show will be Dec. 6-9.

After 22 years, Highland Baptist Church in Grove City is pulling the plug on the Living Christmas Tree.

In 1985, Mark Smith, who was the music director at Highland Baptist at the time, came up with the idea to construct a 28-foot tall Christmas tree and fill it with choir members who would sing holiday songs. Approximately 70 choir members can fit into the tree structure. It quickly became something the community would look forward to each year.

David Thomas, the current minister of music and education who took over in 1990, said they are just burnt out.

"It takes a lot of time and people to put this performance together," said Thomas. "A lot of people are just a little weary."

Thomas explained that this single performance takes months of hard work. The choir starts practicing in August. The orchestra and drama members begin in September. There are approximately 15 committees that handle different aspects of the show. For example, one committee will set the scenery, another committee with actually construct the 28-foot tree.

"Overall there are about 150 people involved," Thomas remarked.

He said it has become tough to compete with other holiday programs. He also said he thinks it is just time to call it quits.

"I feel like we have taken it as far as we can," said Thomas. "We used to draw in large crowds and now that is not the case."

He believes people are spending their time going to the big performances that are held at the Schottenstein Center or Nationwide Arena.

"I have put my heart and soul into this for 17 years," said Thomas. "I’ll miss it."

Without the Living Christmas Tree, Highland Baptist Church is free to try different programs in the future.

"It’s kind of like when your favorite TV show is cancelled," said Thomas. "You’re sad but there will always be something else to watch soon."

For the die-hard Living Christmas Tree fans, the church is putting on its final performances. This year the show is titled Journey to the Manger, the Search for the True Meaning of Christmas. Thomas said it is about a cynical man who does not comprehend the real meaning behind the holiday.

"It will be a great drama and a good story line this year," he said.

The last performances will be Dec. 6-9. Dec. 6-8, the show will begin at 7:30 p.m. On Dec. 9, the final show will start at 6 p.m. It is free and open to the public. For reserve tickets, call the church office at 875-0687.

After the final Living Christmas Tree performance, Thomas said there would be some final words. Smith, the creator of the Living Christmas Tree, is scheduled to be on hand. He plans to take the structure with him to his congregation in Florida.

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