This weekend, the sanctuary of First Baptist Church of Lodi will fill with the soaring notes of Christmas music sharing the story of the birth of Jesus and the world’s salvation.
The free concert, “The King is Coming,” is a gift from the church to the community, Worship Pastor Dane Burg said.
“We’ve been doing this for about 18 years, and it involves a 70-voice choir (and) about a 45-piece orchestra,” he said.
The musicians are all professional caliber, and some are members of the Stockton Symphony, he added. An emcee narrates the concert, leading guests through the story — this year, with a focus on the Nativity and the implications of Jesus’ birth as a “baby king.”
“It’s a chance for us to celebrate the season,” Burg said.
The concert extravaganza is free to attend, but free-will offerings are accepted. Those donations have an important purpose: helping those in need in Lodi and beyond.
Each year, the First Baptist Church chooses a theme for their donations, and every dime collected at the Christmas concerts and several other church events goes to that purpose.
“This year’s theme is shining the light of Christ on children’s education,” said Sarah Sciarini, who writes for the church’s website and helped to organize and publicize the concert.
Adventist Conspiracy 2018 — First Baptist’s mission to “spend less, give more, and love all” each Christmas — is raising funds for Care Lodi’s afterschool program, Grace English School in northeastern India, and Youth Reach in San Nicolas, Mexico, which provides guidance to young people.
“We’ve raised $350,000 over the past 10 years,” Sciarini said — both from donations given by visitors at the community concerts, and contributions collected during the church’s other Christmas events.
In the past, First Baptist Church of Lodi has helped organizations with both religious and humanitarian missions, in Lodi and around the world. Funding has gone toward installing clean water systems in Africa, building a school in Tanzania, supporting child refugees and fighting child slavery.
About a year after the donations went toward the Tanzanian school, Burg was visiting the community and they took him to see the new building.
“The money goes out, you don’t really think about it,” he said. “I’m halfway around the world, and you see the direct fruit from this, and it was so powerful.”
Of course, the concert isn’t just a chance to feel good by donating. It’s also a chance to take in a professional-level performance.
The choir and orchestra will be joined this year by guest musician Atomic Tommy, an electric guitarist who adds some rock flair to one of the pieces, a la Transiberian Orchestra or Mannheim Steamroller.
The story follows the Biblical prophecies of Christ’s coming and the days leading up to his birth — but it doesn’t stop there. It also reminds the audience that Jesus will come again.
“We’re celebrating the season but also looking forward at the same time,” Burg said.
The concert is open to anyone who wants to attend, but it does fill up quickly, he said.
“But we make room!” Sciarini said.
Still, they said, anyone who wants to find parking should come early.