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Bemidji woman writes an original Christmas production

Almina Beyers has written a Christmas musical program, "A Candle, A Cradle, A Cross, and a Crown." (Monte Draper | Bemidji )1 / 2
Children rehearse "A Candle, A Cradle, A Cross, and a Crown" recently at Calvary Lutheran Church in Bemidji, Minn. (Monte Draper | Forum News Service)2 / 2

BEMIDJI, Minn. -- One by one, preschoolers brought gifts to the altar, laying items beside Jesus' cradle.

"I will give this little book, it's my favorite story," recited a fourth-grader, narrating as a smaller child placed a book at the manger scene. "It tells of Daniel in the lion's den, it all to show God's glory."

A pillow, blanket, music box, ball and wagon also were presented. After each was set at the babydoll's side, dozens of little children shouted, mostly in unison, "Happy birthday, Jesus!"

A children's Christmas program, one of dozens performed this month throughout the area, was performed last weekend at Calvary Lutheran Church in Bemidji.

But unlike others perhaps, this particular production was written -- often in verse with accompanying original music -- by a congregation member, Almina Beyers, who with her husband, the Rev. Bill Beyers, now serves as a visitation pastor for the church.

"I truly believe it was God-inspired," Almina said, reflecting on the history of her program, titled "A Candle, A Cradle, A Cross, and A Crown."

It was 26 years ago, and she and BIll were serving congregations in International Falls and Loman. Almina, who had never before done such a thing, was suddenly struck with the desire to write a Christmas program.

"For some reason, rhyming came to my mind," she said. "Maybe the children could remember their lines better that way. After all, most children's songs as well as our hymns are in rhyme form."

While the program has an emphasis on the manger scene, Almina's program, which runs about an hour, goes well beyond that, spanning from the time when the world was awaiting Jesus (the candle), to his birth (the cradle), to his crucifixion (the cross) and his resurrection (the crown).

The first time the children rise to sing, their voices start small, quiet, setting the stage for what -- and who -- is soon to come.

Jesus is the light, he's the light of the world. Boom, boom, boom.

Jesus is the light, he's the light of the world. Boom, boom, boom.

Jesus is the light, he's the light of the world.

And he's ever shining in my heart!

The second time through, they get louder, and by the third and fourth times, their voices proclaim Jesus' arrival.

"I began writing focusing on the candle, with Jesus who came to be the light of the world," Beyers said. "Miraculously, the lines began to flow quite rapidly. More often than not, they came to me when I went to bed. I learned to keep a pad of paper on my bedside stand and, in the dark, would write the lines that came to me.

"Another time, when I had the lines running through my head, was when I was walking between our and the church, just a few blocks. Again, I had to get to where I could write them down before they escaped my mind."

No one asked her to write the program, and she supposes that the church staff was a little surprised when she presented them with the material in advance of the 1987 Christmas season. The first church to have performed the production was First Lutheran in International Falls.

Congregations take part in the production as well, as traditional hymns -- including "Oh Come All Ye Faithful" and "Were You There (When They Crucified My Lord)?" -- are included throughout the production.

"Another challenge came to me in putting together a song that summed up the whole program," Almina said. "I sat at the piano with music paper before me, first having written the words, now needing to put a melody to it."

At the end of the program, while celebrating Jesus' resurrection, all the children gathered together at the altar, holding and wearing crowns of their own.

He died on a cross, our burdens did bear,

Was placed in a tomb ... but, wait, he's not there!

He's alive! He's alive! Rejoice and let's sing!

A crown too is mine, I'm a child of the King!

A candle, a cradle, a cross, and a crown,

Jesus our Savior from heaven came down.

Almina, reflecting on the performance just a day after it was performed at Calvary, smiled as she recalled the children's enthusiasm.

"It is God who inspired me to put together a Christmas program, which I hope helps the children see not simply a baby Jesus, lying in manger, but God, who waits for us and will call us to our eternal home in heaven," she said.