WILLMAR -- The Willmar Assembly of God Church will present its 46th annual Nights of Music, "A Baby Changes Everything," at seven performances beginning Friday at the church in Willmar.
The show focuses on the fact that the birth of the Christ child changed the course of the world, and it is very easy -- both then in Bethlehem and now in the present day -- to sleep through what happened, according to Cindy Kerstetter, director of the production.
A storyteller will begin the show and take the audience back to Bethlehem in 1 A.D. and to Christmas Eve in 2010, showing that externally the world has changed but in reality, people haven't changed, she said.
"Internally, the hearts of people haven't changed," she said. "The light of Christ can change their lives."
The cast includes nine people, with three leading characters finding changes in their lives. Those characters include Roman census taker, a servant girl at the inn and a shepherd. Arne Plowman plays the census taker and Laurie Peterson plays Miriam, the innkeeper.
The musical performance includes a 55-voice choir, directed by Nancy Murphy, and a live nativity scene.
The performances are at 7 p.m. Friday and Saturday and at 3 p.m. Sunday and at 7 p.m. on Dec. 17 and 18, with 3 p.m. matinee performances on Dec. 18 and 19.
The Nights of Music tradition started in the early 1960s at the Assemblies of God church. Choirs filled a "singing Christmas tree" until 1997, when a tornado took the garage where the tree staging was stored. That's when the annual event became a main stage musical each and every year.
"Each year, it's a new performance," Kerstetter said. "But it is always the same message."
Tickets are required for the event, but are free. They are available at the church at 3821 Abbott Drive in south Willmar, the Good News Bookstore, Walt's and Dunn Bros. Pie, apple cider and coffee will be available after each evening performance in the church fellowship hall. The cost is $3.
Each year, the freewill offering collected at the event is given to a local need or charity. This year, the funds will go to Heartland Community Action. Over the past nine years, more than $140,000 raised at the event has supported many local charities and organizations.
-- Gretchen Schlosser