by Norm Miller
Red-faced, Jenny's dad spews venom about a tough work environment and the need for overtime hours to pay for Christmas presents.
A commercial plays on the family's television about a musical presentation at the mall, and the appearance of Santa Claus.
"Can we go, can we go, Daddy? Can we pulleeeze go?" Jenny begs her father.
The parents' argument continues, and then ends with a weeping young Jenny, who says between sobs, "Please, please, I really need to see Santa this year."
Jenny's father reluctantly agrees.
Though fictional, the troubles in Jenny's family represent an all-too-familiar scenario to Tim Chapman, minister of music at Colonial Woods Baptist Church, Lawrenceville, Ga. So Tim decided to write a skit about Jenny and her parents' troubled marriage as an introduction to the Colonial Woods' annual Christmas musical, Dec. 12.
Tim and Alice Chapman were driving back from Fla. last October when the idea struck him to write the script, and to compile and arrange the music, as well as to compose an original song.
Alice Chapman plays Jenny's mother in the skit. Other skit characters include Colonial Woods' Pastor Don Mulkey as Jenny's father, Jake; Katelyn Berger plays Jenny; and Bill Wells plays Santa.
Driving north on the interstate, Tim verbalized the script as Alice typed it on a laptop computer. "God just gave it to me; it really was a God thing," said Tim, who is Webmaster for Truett-McConnell College, Cleveland, Ga.
The church musical undergoes a scene change as ushers and deacons transform the platform from a family living room to risers at the mall. Then the ring-ting-tingling of tiny bells peals from the back of the auditorium. Choir members meander up the middle aisle ringing bells and shaking hands of congregants.
As the singers assemble on the platform, Tim welcomes everyone to the musical presentation at the "mall." The church choir-turned-community choral group sings, "It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year."
What follows is a feel-good selection of secular and religious Christmas songs, after which Tim introduces Santa Claus, who has been standing in the church foyer.
Santa waltzes down the center aisle to a rendition of "Santa Claus is Coming to Town" by Point of Grace. Some children reach for Santa, others shrink from him. But the jolly old elf dances undaunted to the platform, and is rewarded with an ovation from the crowd.
On the platform is an antique sleigh Wells owns and uses when he plays Santa Claus for children in local hospices.
Saint Nick mounts his Christmas conveyance as Jenny and her family stand in line, ready to meet the man wearing the red suit trimmed in white fur.
First in line is Jenny, obviously distraught. And she tells Santa she has but one wish: "Santa, can you make Mommy love Daddy again? They've been fighting a lot lately and I'm afraid. All I want for Christmas is for our family to be happy."
Santa says the wish is too much for him, but not for Jesus, the only one who "can fix broken hearts."
"Jesus?" Jenny replies. "I thought you were the one who could make wishes come true. I bet you're not even the real Santa are you?" she says, pulling on long white whiskers attached by their roots.
"Ho, Ho, hold on a second. Let me tell you a little story about Santa and Jesus," he responds.
Santa leaves his sleigh and sings "When Santa Claus Got Saved," a song popularized by Country Gospel singer/songwriter James Payne.
After singing, Santa tells Jenny that Jesus can change people's hearts. "Have you asked Him for your Christmas wish?" he asks.
"Well why don't you ask Him right now?"
"I don't know what to say. I don't know how to pray yet."
"Just ask Him like you asked me."
Jenny then sings the original song Tim wrote titled "Jenny's Prayer."
"I ask you today, Lord,
Please answer my prayer, Lord,
And don't let Christmas begin,
Till Mommy loves Daddy,
And everyone's happy,
And we are a family again."
Jenny's parents exchange conciliatory looks as Santa tells Jenny, "Jesus loves you, and He loves your family. You keep praying, and I'll pray too, and we'll see what Jesus can do."
Santa hugs Jenny and calls for the next person in line. Jessica, Jenny's mother, climbs into the sleigh.
She offers Santa a musical request, too, as she sings "Grown-up Christmas list."
Some of the song's lyrics especially reveal the hurting heart of a wife unappreciated:
"Well heaven surely knows
That packages and bows
Can never heal a hurting human soul
No more lives torn apart
That fights would never start
And time would heal all hearts
And everyone would have a friend
And right would always win
And love would never end
This is my grown-up Christmas list."
The couple once divided appears united as Jessica concludes her song, and then she says, "Thank you Santa for helping us see what really matters."
"You're welcome, Jessica," replies Santa. "I hope you and Jake and Jenny have a very, very Merry Christmas."
The musical/skit is over. Mulkey encourages the crowd regarding spiritual matters, and then offers an invitation to respond not to the skit, but to how God has used the presentation to point observers to Him.
The program created "quite a buzz at Colonial Woods" Tim told TMC News. The church set a high-attendance record of almost 140 people in worship -- the largest crowd in the last seven years for a small church that consists predominantly of retirement age members.
Most Sundays will garner only four or five children at the small church in suburban Atlanta, Tim said. "But there were three young families with children that the church had been praying for. And the parents of those families told some church leaders that they would be back."
For Tim, that makes all his efforts worthwhile.
Tim Chapman (far right, facing choir) and the members of Colonial Woods Baptist Church choir spent countless hours during several weeks preparing to perform a Christmas musical compiled, arranged, and directed by Chapman.
Jessica (Alice Chapman, right) confronts Jake (Don Mulkey, left) about being late as Jenny (Katelyn Berger, front) listens.
HO - HO - HO!!
Jenny (Katelyn Berger) sings "Jenny's Prayer" as Santa listens.
Jessica (Alice Chapman) sings "Grown-Up Christmas List" as the rest of the family and Santa listen.
Photos by Norm Miller