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Holiday production puts new spin on old story

by: Contributed photo Gresham singer-songwriter Hailey Crowe performs as  Mary in East Hill Church’s modern take on Christmas titled “Only Hope.”

East Hill Church will tell the story of the biblical Joseph and Mary story in the multimedia presentation 'Only Hope,' which combines live theater with video.

'Only Hope' strips the Christmas story of its predictable setting to expose the narrative of real, complicated, imperfect people experiencing the miraculous.

Performances take place at the church, 701 N. Main Ave., at 7 p.m. Friday, Dec. 16; 6 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 17; and 9:15 a.m. and 11:15 a.m. Sunday, Dec. 18. Admission is free.

The cast also will perform at 4 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 3, at the Gresham tree lighting in the Center for the Arts Plaza, between Northeast Kelly and Hood avenues.

When a teenager, Mary discovers she's pregnant, copes with the cutting remarks, stares and disapproval emanating from her community, parents and fiancé. At risk of sounding insane and deluded, she maintains her innocence and purity.

The Christmas story wasn't the polished, pretty picture we see in holiday cards and Nativity scenes. The parents of Jesus Christ - Mary and Joseph - experienced complicated issues during difficult times.

'Mary and Joseph were good people who loved God, but they were by no means perfect people,' said Jason Albelo, lead pastor at East Hill. 'By putting their story in our world, today, we see just how real they were, and how they made a choice to embrace what God wanted to do in their lives. It's really encouraging to all of us.'

Creative Director Jeff Schroeder adds, 'The relationship between Mary and Joseph is very real, very authentic, and I think we really capture that, as well as the greater love story that's at play here.'

The story is told with music, incorporating songs that range from the Christian rock band Switchfoot to recent musical theater offerings.

The symbols of Nativity find modern counterparts; instead of Bethlehem, think of downtown Portland. Instead of a manger, think of the outside of a parking garage. Instead of a star, envision a single, solitary utility light.

The event comes in the middle of East Hill's participation in 'Advent Conspiracy,' a movement that challenges people to observe Christmas with Jesus in mind, rather than as a day for presents.

Practically, that means spending less on gifts, instead diverting that money to the less fortunate across town and around the world.

For more information, call 503-661-4444 or visit anewchristmas.com.