A small army of volunteers has been working for weeks as Plant City's First Baptist Church prepares to present the story of the birth of Christ in music and on stage.
"The Light of Christmas," will be presented 7 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 6:30 p.m. Sunday at the church, 503 N. Palmer St. Tickets, which are free, can be picked up at the church office in advance or at the door at each performance.
The sanctuary is often packed, but the church has never had to turn anyone away, Minister of Worship Pete Battaglia said.
The Christmas production is the largest of the year for First Baptist, Battaglia said. About 350 to 400 members of the church's choirs, drama team, orchestra and others are involved in the presentation.
The group has been rehearsing for weeks.
"We are telling the story of Christmas," said Battaglia, who has been directing the production for more than 20 years.
The church's senior pastor, the Rev. Michael Lewis, is preaching a sermon series through Christmas that incorporates "The Light of Christmas" theme, Battaglia said.
The music changes at least every couple of years, including this year, when it features scores from a yet-to-be-released Christmas musical, he said.
Also new for this year, the lighting has been enhanced, thanks to a new volunteer who used to help with lighting at televangelist Joel Osteen's megachurch in Houston, Battaglia said.
Also, family members of youth minister Mike Storter, who died in May after a three-year battle with leukemia, will participate on stage, Battaglia said. Storter's daughters, fifth-grader Taryn and kindergartener Hope, will sing solos, and his wife Laura will talk about how her faith has gotten her through a difficult time, he said.
This year, the church will host a special guest who lives in Bethlehem, Battaglia said. The student first learned of First Baptist when some members of its choir and other area churches presented a program at the Church of the Nativity, considered the oldest Christian church in continuous use, during a 2010 visit to the Bethlehem, he said.
For information, call First Baptist at (813) 752-4104.