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First Baptist gives gift of Living Tree to community

First Baptist Church will continue its holiday tradition of bringing joy to the community with the largest Christmas tree anyone is likely ever to see.

The church will present the 37th annual Living Christmas Tree with 13 platforms, 100 singers and 80,000 lights. The 30-foot structure is at the center of a presentation that reminds everyone of the reason for the season. But beyond the bright lights and choreographed performance, there's a deeper meaning. This year's theme, "What Kind of Throne," brings that home, said Mike Neff, associate pastor. 

"He's seeking a relationship with us," Neff said. "There's this idea of what kind of throne is this? He would come to a manger when he's the king of kings. He humbled himself that much because he loved us that much."

The Living Christmas Tree was started in First Baptist Church after the pastor at the time learned about similar shows popping up across the country. There was nothing like it anywhere around the area, so Neff said the pastor decided to try to start one here in Lawton. With the assistance of the church and members of the community, he was able to raise the funds to put together the first Living Christmas Tree performance. People came from all over to see something like they had never seen before. Twila Bennight, a member of the congregation and choir, was at that first performance  up on the tree. 

"We were completely intrigued by the idea," she said. "It was very cutting edge at the time. We were excited to be the only ones to do something like it around here."

A member of the church since 1975, Bennight joined the choir and became a lifelong member. She was eager to be a part of the Living Christmas Tree and said it has carved out a very important place in her heart since then. In the 37 years since the start of First Baptist Church's annual program, she's only missed two years for different reasons. While some might enjoy the opportunity to be in the audience watching, Bennight was not.

"It was very disappointing to me to not be in the presentation those years," she said. "My Christmas is not complete without being on the Living Christmas tree. It's very, very important to me."

The Lawton Constitution

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