From camels and new-born babies to flying angels, pyrotechnics and more, First Baptist Fort Lauderdale’s annual Christmas production has wowed thousands for more than 30 years. The Fort Lauderdale Christmas Pageant rises to the caliber and mastery of Broadway shows but with a different foundation. What makes this renowned event so special? Some may say the magic is in the scenery, while others can argue the actors hold the pageant to its high standards. One thing is certain. “When you have welcomed 40,000 people a year for 33 years, the impact is undeniable, as the real message of Christmas is clearly and definitively shared in each performance,” said J.R. Longstaff, marketing director at First Baptist | FTL.
This timeless Christmas Pageant never disappoints as it switches theme every year and is known for mixing traditional songs with contemporary selections to broaden the appeal to a wider audience. This year’s performance commemorates our country’s armed heroes and Pearl Harbor’s 75th Anniversary. “It is going to be a Red, White and Blue Celebration of Christmas!” said Longstaff, adding that this year’s opening scene is one that cannot be missed.
Something for everyone
In today’s modern, flashy world, having an event that draws global attention to Christ is a true blessing. The story of Jesus Christ is definitely one this world cannot forget nor ignore. The Fort Lauderdale Christmas Pageant is an instrument of God that shares this story every year with increasing passion and dedication even inviting some who are bed-ridden to attend.
Longstaff said, “For our Community Performance, we will remove seats in certain sections of the auditorium to allow space for large hospital beds and for people needing to be hooked up to medical machines. For many of these attendees, this is something they look forward to each year and is the highlight of their entire year.”
Originally held in an auditorium, the church later built their Worship Center specially designed to accommodate the Christmas pageant and it opened on the 10th anniversary of its performance.
The entire show is performed by church volunteers who represent “more than seventy nations [who joined] together to present this production as a Christmas gift.” These multi-cultural volunteers start practicing in August. Volunteers consist of “children and students from weeks-old babies (in the starring role!) to high school seniors who’ve been part of the Pageant all their lives.” The love and commitment of the community truly makes the show extra special.
Christopher Schunk, a senior in high school, has participated in the pageant since he was four. He said, the “Pageant has come to be a Christmas tradition for me. Christmas wouldn’t feel like Christmas without it. It’s also shown me how to use the arts for the glory of God.”
Both Schunk and Longstaff agree that “the biggest means of advertisement is by word of mouth…and the show is intended for everyone.”
With an event going on for as long as it has, the Fort Lauderdale Christmas Pageant has definitely impacted countless lives. In fact, First Baptist | FTL has a “large portion of [their] church family that their first time hearing the message of the Gospel was during their attendance at the Christmas Pageant and they made a decision to follow Christ,” said Longstaff.
Thank the Lord, for a story that continues to impact lives and spark life into all who hear it, as it has for now two millenniums. “The promise of two thousand years ago is realized again each time we tell the Christmas story. As morning rises over Bethlehem, a new hope arises in our hearts,” according to program materials.
The Fort Lauderdale Christmas Pageant has been shown on television around the world to our troops. The show has won the Emmy Award twice and has been nominated five times.
You don’t want to miss these three weekends of top-notch performances, running from December 2 through December 18.
The pageant is performed at First Baptist | FTL, 301 E. Broward Blvd, Fort Lauderdale, FL 33301. Tickets may be purchased online or by phone. All seats are reserved. Because of the time and activity involved in the production, children under the age of four are not admitted. For more information, visit www.christmastickets.com.
Estefania Hernandez is a student at Calvary Christian Academy and a Good News intern. You can reach her at [email protected].