“Maybe Christmas … doesn’t come from a store. Maybe Christmas, perhaps, means a little bit more.”
Two Westerville brothers – one a local pastor and the other a local first-grade teacher – aim to remind people of the lesson immortalized by Dr. Seuss’ Grinch this, and every, Christmas season.
For more than 15 years, the two have partnered on “True Meaning of Christmas Productions” at the Westerville Church of the Nazarene, where Mark Ledford is the senior pastor.
The annual productions present the Christmas message with live music, special effects, puppets and popular Christmas stories, rewritten by Jim Ledford, a first-grade teacher at Alcott Elementary School.
The productions began in 1995, when Jim Ledford approached his brother about putting on a Christmas show at the church.
“It was called The Old Fashioned Christmas. It started out with different people in the church sharing Christmas memories, and we would share some special Christmas songs. It was kind of a homey, small atmosphere,” Mark Ledford said.
That year, about 100 people came.
This year, however, more than 1,000 are expected at the Church of the Nazarene, 355 Cherrington Road, where True Meaning of Christmas Productions will present The Heart of a Who: A Very Grinchy Tale at 6 p.m. Dec. 1 and 2.
A second weekend of the show will be presented at 6 p.m. Dec. 8 and 9 at Newstart Community Church, 168 E. Olentangy St. in Powell.
“It just kept growing and growing, and it would add more music, and the drama would come into play,” Mark Ledford said of the productions.
Jim Ledford said he believes the productions have become so popular because they present the Christmas message not in a traditional way – with a manger scene – but with modern stories and live music.
“I love the fact that the family can come during Christmas and they can all sit and be entertained, but it also has the Christmas message in it, which is very important to me,” Jim Ledford said. “We have little kids all the way up to seniors, and everyone seems to enjoy it.”
The productions have grown not only in terms of the size of the audience, but also in their staging.
Jim Ledford begins working on the scripts each January with fellow teacher Jason McQuown, and production work begins with the church in June.
This year’s production is the result of the work of more than 100 people.
There will be a live performance by Jim Ledford’s band Three Days Wait, and performances by all R friends and Leap of Faith. There’s also a snow machine and puppets.
“The more years we do it, the more detailed we get with the costumes and the script and all of those things,” Mark Ledford said.
The productions are well worth the effort, Mark Ledford said, because they draw people in to enjoy the Christmas message.
“Our passion is our relationship with the Lord, and we are just wanting to let people know what makes Christmas so meaningful to us,” Mark Ledford said. “It brings that passion to life, but not just in the way you traditionally would see in a church.”
Mark Ledford has brought up taking a year off from the elaborate productions, but Jim Ledford said he wants to keep the productions going as long as people enjoy watching them.
“As long as I can do it, and as long as there’s an opportunity, I’ll do it,” Jim Ledford said. “Right now, it’s a train running full blast, so I want that to continue. At this point, there would be no time to stop it.
“It’s a lot of work, but it’s fun, and we enjoy it.”