In the latest sign of an ongoing spiritual awakening in America, a Baptist church in Oklahoma had more than 700 soldiers attend its exclusive Christmas play last weekend and 116 of them made a profession of faith in Jesus Christ.
First Baptist Church of Lawton displays a sensational 39-foot tall Christmas tree which takes 40 people and seven hours of work to set up.
But it is all worth it for the church's annual Living Christmas Tree musical that draws thousands each year.
"Last year, we reached 4,000 people in one weekend," Worship Pastor Xavier Abraham told Swoke News. "This year, we decided to do two weekends. We hope to reach 5,000."
The production is an adaptation of "The Journey of Christmas" musical, the outlet reports.
The musical shares the story of Mitchell who wants to go on vacation for Christmas, but for many reasons can never seem to go. He soon learns that the true meaning of Christmas is not gifts or vacations.
"It's more than that," Abraham said. "It's about the memories you create, the moments you get to help someone out. We want to point out the real journey of Christmas, and what the Christmas season is about. It's nice to receive gifts or go on vacation, but when you become Jesus to others, it doesn't matter if it's a holiday or a regular day, it brings meaning and worth into our life."
The 30 cast members, 50 vocalists, and an orchestra bring the production to life.
The church normally holds the event one weekend during December, but Senior Pastor Mike Keahbone told the Baptist Press he felt godly inspiration to add a second weekend for the Living Christmas Tree performance.
"To ask for a church to do it two weekends back-to-back was a difficult, difficult ask," Keahbone told Baptist Press, citing the long hours and labor required in the production. "But it just felt like the Lord was in it."
Keahbone had invited soldiers from the nearby Fort Sill Army base.
"They were not going to be able to (attend), except for the fact that they found out we were doing an alternate date," Keahbone said. "Had we stuck to just doing it (Dec. 8-10) when we normally do it, they wouldn't have been able to come."
More than 700 people attended the event and 116 soldiers gave their lives to Jesus Christ as a result.
"We obviously shared the Gospel that night," he said, "and it turns out we had 116 professions of faith, several others that want to know more, and then a whole bunch that already knew the Lord...(others) indicated that the living Christmas tree sort of brought them back home and kind of got them back on the right track."
Soldiers recorded their professions of faith and other spiritual decisions on contact cards, and chaplains at Fort Sill plan to follow up with the soldiers.
"Our chaplains spend a lot of time with soldiers. They probably spend six to eight hours a day visiting with soldiers with a variety of needs," Col. Robert Glazener told the Baptist Press. "I know that they will be diligent about doing this."
First Lawton has held the event for the last 43 years, only breaking the tradition during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Keahbone has seen the church's hard work pay off every year.
"I love the tradition of (the living tree) with our community. And I love it as a pastor (because) we're sharing the Gospel with our community," Keahbone said. "For those thousands who come to take in the show, we're sharing the Gospel every single time. We see people saved, that's obviously the best reason. And then the other part is just watching our church rally to serve our community."