Though the message of the Christmas story never actually changes, those preparing for a madrigal dinner at Gender Road Christian Church in Canal Winchester are planning to deliver it in a whole new way.

Though the message of the Christmas story never actually changes, those preparing for a madrigal dinner at Gender Road Christian Church in Canal Winchester are planning to deliver it in a whole new way.

Because of the routine way the Biblical story is often packaged, the message is sometimes lost, senior pastor Kerry Reed said.

"We hope people will experience Christmas and not simply hear about it," Reed said.

The word "madrigal" refers to a medieval style of music that was developed in Italy and was popular in England in the 16th and early 17th centuries.

This year's madrigal dinner, scheduled for 7 p.m. Dec. 10 and 11 at the church, 5336 Gender Road, will feature a medieval-themed show of music, pageantry and a play that moves between the 21st and 16th centuries. Dinner, in keeping with the time period, will include roast beef, roasted potatoes, a vegetable medley, spiced pudding and wassail.

About 60 people are involved in the production, which is the church's fourth. Reed said he's particularly excited about the way this year's play shifts between past and present.

"We've never done anything like that before," he said.

Erin Gibbons of Bexley is directing "A Christmas Past and Present," which revolves around what transpires when a grandmother tries to tell her somewhat spoiled young granddaughter, Abigail, about the meaning of Christmas.

Though Gibbons, 23, has directed a Christmas play at the First English Lutheran Church in Columbus, this is her first year working with the Gender Road church. Gibbons got to choose the play and describes it as a "very comedic show."

It features music, jokes, a string quartet, a bell choir and a juggler, Gibbons said. A troubadour will even be making his rounds.

"There is a little bit of something for everyone," said Gibbons, who is completing graduate work in theatre at the Ohio State University.

The play is also somewhat of a family affair, with sisters Kiara and Ava Myers playing older and younger Abigail. Their mother, Erika Myers, is playing the grandmother. Though the part of Abigail had been originally planned for one girl, Gibbons said it has been interesting

to have the sisters working together.

For Reed, the festivities offer a way people can observe Christmas, regardless of whether they attend church or not.

"In this way, they get the story of Christmas," he said.

The experience is also a great way for the congregation to work together, he said.

Charlotte Bougher, musical director, said the madrigal dinner is very unlike anything else the choir participates in.

"We kind of step out of our box," said Bougher, of Gahanna.

Bougher has participated in all of the church's madrigal dinners. The choir, which has about 25-30 members, performs some songs yearly, such as the traditional "Wassail Song: and the "Boar's Head Carol."

Still, this year's movement between present and past has proved to be unique. At some points in the show, the choir will freeze when the story line moves to another place in time, Bougher said.

"The script this year is totally different from anything we've done," she said.

Tickets are $20 for adults, $10 for ages 12 and younger. Paid reservations, due Dec. 1, can be made by calling the church at (614) 834-5937. Doors open at 6:30 p.m.