Oct 13, 2013 / Houston's First
Celebration will take a hiatus next year.
This news is probably a shock to many people — especially those who know about Houston’s First’s rich musical heritage and our history of providing audiences with a musical Christmas production for the last several decades.
Actually, it’s a shock to us, too.
This decision was not initiated on our own for our own motives — nor has it been made lightly. The process has taken months to unfold as God has revealed His plan to our Celebration leaders — and as we came to terms with where He was leading our church.
In a nutshell, Celebration is taking a hiatus in 2014 on what would have been it’s seventh year of production.
Those familiar with the Bible will see the spiritual significance of that timing. Throughout God’s Word, there are instances where people are told by God to rest in the seventh year. In fact, God modeled that for us from the very beginning when He rested on the seventh day:
So the heavens and the earth and everything in them were completed. By the seventh day God completed His work that He had done, and He rested on the seventh day from all His work that He had done. God blessed the seventh day and declared it holy, for on it He rested from His work of creation. (Genesis 2:1-3)
But there is more to this next chapter than that one verse. Fittingly, as we look at how God has led us to take this hiatus in Celebration’s seventh year, we have discovered seven benefits and reasons for doing so:
(1) Obedience to God
On one level, we are simply being obedient to what God has called us to do as a church. This list of reasons could end simply with that one point. When God leads, we follow. On another level, the hiatus is a modern example of following the command God gave to the Israelites to take a Sabbath year every seven years (Leviticus 25:2-5).
(2) It shows God’s ownership
Celebration is not ours. It is God’s. He provides the gifts, talents, creativity, and resources for it to happen. When we give a tithe, it’s not showing that God deserves the 10%. Rather, it reminds us that God owns all that we have. We offer back to Him a portion of what He has graciously given us. In a similar way, this hiatus offers back to Him the musical presentation we treasure so dearly.
(3) It shows the world we are a distinguished people
One of the reasons God told His people to do certain things in the Bible was to set them apart from the world. The goal of this was so that God’s people would live in such a way that others would ask, “Why are you living like that?” God knows that when a megachurch takes a hiatus from its beloved Christmas production, people will ask us that very question — “Why?” That is the very question we hope to hear because the answer will point people straight to Him.
(4) God works while we rest
When God’s people rest, God does not! Taking a hiatus from Celebration shows our reliance and trust in God and His power to do a work through us. We know that He will be working in ways we can and cannot see leading up to our Christmas production in 2015. We trust Him — more than our own strength — to do the work He chooses. There is a difference between dead time and active space on our calendars. We see the year ahead, after the 2013 performances, as active space in which God will be up to something — in our cast and crew, our church family, and our city.
(5) It gives rest to the land
Our city and our church community are our “land.” They can both be overworked just like a farmer’s fields can be. Even though Celebration has great variety every year in its production, theatrical elements, and music, God has put into place His timing and pacing to protect our land so that it remains eager and excited for the future.
(6) It gives rest to the livestock
In our context, our “livestock” are the 700+ people who make Celebration happen each year. (Of course, we treat them much nicer than cows and donkeys!) The Lord calls us to take a day of rest one day a week. Like what that one day does for us personally, taking a hiatus with Celebration will benefit us spiritually, mentally, physically, and emotionally. It will strengthen us for the following year. If we wait until we need a sabbatical, it’s too late.
(7) It gives opportunity to meet other needs
During the years when the people of God were not allowed to plow their land in the Old Testament, a small harvest would still come from the seeds that had fallen the previous year. The poor were allowed to gather this food to provide for their families. It was God’s way of providing for a need to be met — a need that may not have been fulfilled had the farmers plowed and harvested their fields. In our church’s context, there are some capital improvement needs at The Loop Campus. Celebration would prevent us from taking on these projects since they would interfere with the show and our ability to host the nearly 18,000 people who experience it each year.
“I am proud of our Celebration leaders for placing priority on God’s calling.”
— Pastor Gregg Matte
Gregg Matte, our Pastor at Houston’s First, models the sabbatical rhythm of life by taking a one-month sabbatical each summer. He uses those four weeks very intentionally. They are not a break from God, but a break with God. His mornings are spent praying, reading and studying as he prepares for the year ahead at our church. The afternoons are spent enjoying time with his family.
“While we will miss Celebration in 2014, I cannot wait to see what God has in store for 2015 — and what He will show us between now and then,” says Matte. “Our vision as a church is to be a relevant biblical community. In that phrase, you’ll see that the Bible is at the center of who we want to be. So, I am proud of our Celebration leaders for placing priority on God’s calling and what He has led our church to do. There is no better place to be than right in the middle of God’s will.”
And according to the director of Celebration, that’s exactly where his team is.
“We are thrilled about plans for this year’s show, and we have great energy and delight going into Celebration 2013.”
— John Bolin, Minister of Worship & Arts
“Although taking a hiatus was one of the hardest decisions my staff and I have ever had to make, I am confident that it was the right one,” says John Bolin, Minister of Worship & Arts at Houston’s First. “When God tells you to do something, you do it. Period.”
“Fortunately, this decision was made not on a tired or weary heart,” Bolin continued. “We are thrilled about plans for this year’s show, and we have great energy and delight going into Celebration 2013. I truly believe it’s the strongest show yet, including theatrical elements never seen before at Houston’s First. While we look forward to sharing Celebration with Houston this December, we also look forward to what’s in store for Celebration in 2015!”
As Celebration 2013 approaches, audiences members can rest assured that they will experience a magnificent musical presentation. The Choir & Orchestra have been rehearsing since August, we have the largest cast in Celebration‘s history, and crew members are hard at work putting together set pieces, props, costumes, and more.
Tickets to Celebration 2013 go on sale October 19
Tickets to the six performances of Celebration this year will be available beginning Saturday, October 19, in person from 8-11a at The Loop Campus (Main Foyer) and online beginning at 1p later that day. Visit TheFirstChristmas.org for ticket information and make plans now to experience the spirit, the songs, and the story of Christmas at Houston’s First this year!