The Valencia Christian Center hosted “Understanding Christmas,” an original play and Christmas concert at the Santa Clarita Valley Senior Center at Bella Vida.
The play was written and directed by Jacquelyn Burton, and the Christmas concert was organized by the director of music, Theresa Jones and the VCC choir.
“Understanding Christmas” is a play about parents decorating their Christmas tree and telling their son about the meaning of Christmas. The parents’ retelling of the birth of Jesus Christ explains the idea that receiving gifts is not the primary take-away from Christmas.
Burton is also a co-director of events and a congregation member but has years of experience with productions.
“My background is movie production,” Burton said. “I’ve been in the industry for over 15 years. I’ve written, produced movies and short films.”
The event was initially to be hosted in the courtyard of the senior center. However, the Bella Vida management offered the church to move the event inside due to the drop in temperature. This change of location prompted the church to encourage attendees to wear face masks and follow COVID-19 protocols.
The cast members of the play have various backgrounds in entertainment, with some professional actors and others choir singers. The performance was well-received by the attendees, according to Burton.
The play was designed for everyone to be reminded of the birth of Jesus Christ and for children to understand gifts are nice, but health and happiness are more important, according to Burton.
“I didn’t want any kid to feel like they had to have certain things to be happy, and that’s kind of what encouraged me to write it,” Burton said.
Following the play, the production team took an intermission, and the choir sang a selection of gospel songs. The performers were made up of members and friends of the choir, with backgrounds in singing and performing.
The performances featured solos, call and response segments with interactions from the crowd. In addition, attendees received an illuminated candle to hold up during the Christmas carols.
As music director, Jones was responsible for picking the music, conducting the singers and musicians, and singing a solo and duet. She also has a storied history with music, performing and church.
“I graduated from Berklee College of Music back in 1999, but I’ve been a backup singer for 20 years for acts like Chaka Khan and Queen Latifah,” Jones said.
In the last three decades, Jones has been a choir member, keyboard player and choir director. So when the church group decided to incorporate a play for the yearly Christmas event, Jones suggested doing a play and a concert.
“We thought it’d be nice if people could just come out and get a little bit of everything,” Jones said about the event.
The very end of the event featured singalong carols with Jones leading the singing. She describes caroling as her favorite part to perform and sing during the holidays.
The event was well-received by the community and congregation, with many singing with Jones and the performers. The event is not for applause or recognition but to contribute to the ministry, and when the crowd responds, it means you’re doing something good, according to Jones.
The VCC is a nondenominational church and has been in Santa Clarita for over 13 years, according to media director Terry Mitchell Collier.
The church is led by senior pastor Swanzi Saunders, elder Jay Stepter and minister Sheila Preston. A goal of the church is to reach all communities and backgrounds with a focus on having a congregation that reflects the demographics of Santa Clarita Valley.
“Santa Clarita has such a wide variety of people, ethnicities and we want to reflect that, so we just open our arms to anyone who wants to come in,” Collier said.
Saunders said she enjoys the yearly event and is glad to know the message of Jesus Christ and Christmas are being planted in the youth. The event was not only for children but also for adults to reflect on themselves, according to Saunders.
“We realize as the adults, that seeds are being planted that will be with them [children] for life,” Saunders said. “I reflect back on my own life and the seeds that were planted during the season as I participated in various Christmas programs in the faith community.”
Saunders reiterated the event was not just for the church or their family but also everyone in the community. She wants to continue serving Santa Clarita and providing support and help in the best way possible for the community.
“We want to serve the community more and if there’s something that the community would like, that we’re not doing during this time of the year, let us know,” Saunders said. “So we can serve to the fullest.”