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New Christmas Tradition Building in Woodland Park

A time-honored Christmas story, original music, classic carols, comedy, multi-dimensional mediums and a magical setting all come together to deliver a holiday experience that is sure to become an annual tradition for families for years to come. And you’ll find it all right here on the campus of Charis Bible College in Woodland Park, December 7-9. 

The Heart of Christmas,” a musical, will transport audiences back in time as a family discovers how the receiving of a gift can change their lives forever. The production follows the story of the fourth wise man, which was originally published in 1895 by Henry van Dyke. This wise man wanted to bring three precious jewels to the newborn King but was unable to make the trip due to the birth of his own child. Once he is able to go in search of the caravan, he comes across others in need and instead gives the jewels to them, explains Adam Stone, Creative Arts School Coordinator, at Charis Bible College and co-director of the show.

“We’ve taken a classic story but put it into a modern concept,” Stone says, explaining that the story is actually told through the eyes of a current day family, as they highlight four generations on stage. The production comes alive through music and a film component for a truly unique Christmas production. “We have the reading of the story, Christmas music including original songs and traditional carols, comedy through narration and a lot of action,” he says.

“The Heart of Christmas” is the creation of Robert and Elizabeth Muren, who are co-directors of the Charis Bible College Creative Arts School. Originally from Norway and well-known in international performing arts circles, the Murens brought their Norwegian version of “The Heart of Christmas” to Charis, along with the costumes, and re-birthed it with the help of Stone, also an acclaimed worldwide and classically trained performer. With their connections, the production will make its way to Kristiansand, Norway in November before returning to Woodland Park for the scheduled performances on the Charis campus.

Now in its fourth year, the production will feature 60-80 performers, most of whom are Charis Bible College students, staff and their children plus the addition of four professional performers from the Holy Land Experience, a Christian-based theme park in Orlando, FL., where Elizabeth is also the theatre director. “The Holy Land Experience performers will enhance our production in certain key areas, but the talent here on the Charis campus is amazing and the main body of performers will be from here,” says Robert, adding that some 15-20 of those students will also get to experience the trip to Norway as an added benefit and enhancement to their education.

His take on the message at hand is to point people back to the core of Christmas. “God gave his son as a gift to us,” Robert says, “and in return we should give to others.”

Also new this year is the opportunity to play to larger audiences. Charis Bible College recently completed a new auditorium with seating capacity for 3,125 and there isn’t a bad seat in the house. Still, ticket prices will remain reasonable at $21 for adults and $15 for children ages 5-12. 

“At Charis Bible College, we want to combine quality programming with a message that is family-oriented so people can come and have hope restored,” says Daniel Amstutz, Dean of Worship and Arts and the Director of the Healing School at Charis. “This is unique to Woodland Park and we are excited to be able to give back to the community.”

Amstutz says this is just the beginning of a vision to attract people from other states and all over the world. “There will be a day when we will have our own performing arts center,” he says. “Shows will carry religious messages and while biblically based, they will be contemporary and relevant.”

For this holiday season, attendees will be greeted with a postcard perfect setting of the small-town charm of Woodland Park, snow covered trees and mountaintops, and a campus lit with hundreds of white and blue holiday lights to set the stage for this Christmastime experience. 

“The Heart of Christmas” performances will occur on Friday, Dec. 7 at 7 p.m., Saturday, Dec. 8 at 1 p.m. and 5 p.m. and Sunday, Dec. 9 at 4 p.m. To learn more about the production or to purchase tickets, visit HeartofChristmas.org.

“It’s a fun and beautiful Christmas evening for the whole family,” says Stone. “And it’s a wonderful way to remind us that family and giving are what Christmas is all about.”