By Michael Edgar Myers
A few summers ago, my theatrical agent called with a wonderful performance opportunity. A holiday season show. Christmastime. Six-to-nine weeks depending on rehearsals.
Actors hear two words at such a possibility. Especially during the holidays. "Ka-ching!"
Honestly, I was more excited about auditioning than getting the job. Auditions for me, for the professional stage, had been rare in recent years. Even though the role wasn't one I actually felt qualified for (if I was directing the show, would I have call ME to read?), being asked was exciting. I was new to the agency, trying to resurrect my career in a new season of life. Landing the job may earn me more opportunities and restore confidence.
It was good to be wanted. It was better to be hired. That's how I became associated with a holiday show we lovingly called, "Broadway on a Train."
For two seasons, I had a pivotal role in the show. You could say my part was the starring role: I was Santa Claus, eagerly awaited to be seen and engage with thousands of children and families! I do not exaggerate thousands of people. Santa's entrance was like "Evita!" Though I likened it to The Triumphal Entry.
"Broadway on a Train" was one of the most joyful, fulling performance experiences I've had. The casts were fun, improvising with the audiences exhilarating, and need I mention the compensation?
The came the pandemic and live performances shut down. Broadway closed, and the train stayed in the depot.
Back on Track
Earlier this summer, the director sent an email. The theatrical embargo lifted, the train was being revived. Was I interested in coming back?
My heart said: "Yes."
My bank account said: "OH, YES!"
But my lips said, "No."
The decision wasn't easy. I loved doing Santa. Adored the people. But Christmas is about Christ.
Because of 2020, I received a new assignment.
Partnering with church-planting pastors and first ladies such as Lamarr and Brenda Lark of Connection Church in Libertyville, IL, is part of our vision as theater missionaries. (Read: Worship in The Barn.)
Ding! Dong! God Calling!
The live performance shutdown of 2020 also meant Kingdom Impact Theater Ministries wasn't touring. Still people asked if we had anything to offer for in any form for Christmas.
The answer was, "Yes." We had lots of video from previous Christmas seasons, including high-resolution footage of a Chos3n concert in 2019. Those videos, plus scenes from live Christmas shows, we repackaged in an online presentation that was the foundation of our monthly online variety program, "An Evening with Kingdom Impact Theater." Response to that program, my Christmas history studies, reading "Christmas" scriptures at non-Christmas times have all been factors why I said, "No," to returning to Santa.
Yes, Virginia -- and the rest of the country -- there is "Christ" in "Christ"-mas.
My responsibility is to spend my time presenting about Christ not Claus…although I do see overlap. That’s another story.
I said “No, thank you,” to Santa in order to shepherd the growth from seeds planted by Kingdom Impact Theater Ministries during our stay-at-home “idleness” of 2020.
Evenings in the Theater...
Throughout December, Kingdom Impact Theater will be presenting gospel outreaches in assorted venues through assorted media -- live, online, written. I'd like you to follow us, support us, and...as feasible...underwrite our call as theater missionari
December presents performance options that build on the events of 2020. We'll present two shows online, and appear live in Services of Worship on four Sundays.
On December 5, 12, 19 and 26, we're scheduled to offer Christ-Centered Worship at Connection Church in Libertyville, Il. The services will be simulcast on Zoom.
Sundays in the Church with KIT
We're also scheduling two episodes of our online episodes of "An Evening with Kingdom Impact Theater" this month, each with a holiday theme and each with a devotional from a guest pastor who will bring a nuanced cultural perspective to the holidays of the season.
On Thursday, December 16, Byron Spradlin, founder and president of Artists in Christian Testimony, Intl, our 501(c)(3) parent, anchors "The Reason for the Season." Pastor Byron will underscore the relationship between Christmas and Hannukah which our society sometimes whimsically refers to as "Christmukah." Among the thoughts to ponder, "Would Jesus celebrate Hannukah?" (link)
"The Reason for the Season" will also include classic Kingdom Impact Theater scenes and archival video footage of KIT ensemble members in community choir and caroling outreaches.
On Friday, December 31, Darryl Jenkins, senior pastor of Faith Community Church in Itasca, returns to celebrate the one-year anniversary of "An Evening with Kingdom Impact Theater." Pastor Darryl updates his message of looking back and looking forward that highlights "Watchnight New Year's Eve." "Watchnight," is an historic event among many African-American churches. Its history and gospel influence will be among the scenes presented throughout the evening.
Thank You for Your Support
Because of our partnership with Connection Church and Grace Fellowship Church in Libertyville, plus generous gifts from viewers of "An Evening with Kingdom Impact Theater," KIT Ministries is finishing 2021 in a stronger financial position than at the end of 2020.
Because I have pulled back from professional commitments, such as Santa, I spend much time freelancing assorted related jobs which I enjoy, but take time from ministry concentration. Not only do my duties include the developing creative content – writing scripts, directing performances – but also recruiting new personnel (younger performers, social media and marketing experts) whom we can disciple while helping KIT fulfill Jesus' edict to “go into the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation.”
"Going into the world" is more than a temporary job on a train, no matter how fun and short-term lucrative.
Accordingly, I would love you to consider being a regular contributor to KIT Ministries...monthly, quarterly, one-time. You may do so here, or contact me to set up a more in-depth personal conversation about our needs.
Questions of Faith
My years as Santa were enlightening. Especially seeing where culture and Spirit intersect. Or should.
During the show, children would often slip notes or tell "Santa Me" of their Christmas wishes. Predictably, they asked for toys or digital devices. Not infrequently came a more personal request. Peace in the house. Reunion of parents. I often envisioned these as prayers. The same kind of things people ask...or should ask...in the name of Jesus.
I also often heard, "I've been good, Santa." Sometimes countered with, "No, Santa. THIS one belongs on the naughty list." THAT exchange often got me thinking about how the Christ of Christmas resolves the naughty or nice issue
The resolution to either scenario is a question of faith, broadly addressed in the oft-repeated theme of the show in Santa's final scripted dialogue he exited each train car.
"The true spirit of Christmas lies in your heart, " says Santa, "for all who TRULY believe."
Actors are trained to create a backstory -- a biography -- to help learn lines and deliver the script with authenticity rather than by rote. Even with just one line. It's called "subtext." Subtext is rarely shared, especially with other actors or even the director. Yet subtext is what allows individual audience members to absorb the same words differently even though the script is unchanged. A variation of "whoever has ears, let them hear."
I always envisioned Santa's words coming from red letters in the New Testament,
The Spirit of Christmas, Jesus says, is:
“Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me.
"Love the LORD your God with all your heart. Love your neighbor as yourself. As I have loved you, love each other.
"Whoever hears my word -- and believes Him who sent Me -- has eternal life.
‘I AM the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this?’”
Maybe Santa is a spokesman for Christ in red clothing. If so, the ultimate Santa clause is not, "Have you been good, or have you been bad?" The question Christmas asks is, "In whom do you believe?" A variation of "train up a child."
The KIT 'n' Kaboodle Blog
The essays here are culled from our travels, conversations, worship experiences and discoveries.
Many are reprints from our newsletter, The KIT 'n' Kaboodle, or Facebook notes over time.
They're written by our ensemble, Garlan Garner, Michael Edgar Myers or Vikki J. Myers -- solo, or collectively.