Bringing Christmas to life

By Ed Brock

Every year except one since 1982 Sue Day has transformed herself into a living, singing Christmas tree ornament.

And she's loved it.

Day is one of the original members of the First Baptist Church of Jonesboro choir's "living Christmas tree" presentation. And for the past 15 and a half years her daughter Dee Phillips has joined her in the 15 level, 35 feet tall, 120 person metal frame "Christmas tree."

"It gives us some mother/daughter time," Phillips said.

Day, 66, is a retired administrative assistant from Delta Air Lines who has been married for 46 years to her husband Ray. They have two other children but Phillips is the only one who sings.

Phillips, 40, is married and has two children of her own. Both women live in Morrow.

This year the living Christmas tree was displayed, so to speak, from Dec. 3 to 5. As in past years, one committee gets together to construct the triangular metal frame of the tree and another decorates the tree.

Then the choir members climb in and perform their shows. They do two shows on the Saturday and Sunday of the show, and the shows can last from an hour and 15 minutes to an hour and a half.

It's not easy work.

"We only have about 18 inches to stand in there. It's like standing on a riser," Day said. "We don't sit down. People think we do."

But it's worth it, Day said.

"It's fun," Day said. "It's a lot of hard work, but it's fun."

A great deal of preparation goes into each year's program since each one features a different musical score.

"They start learning the music in September," said Kathy Acree, the church's music secretary.

The church's former music director Irvin Pearre started the program and previous music director Jim Van Matre continued it. Van Matre's replacement, Rick Stone, takes up the job in March.

The one year that Day missed was 1989 when she had had surgery.

Phillips readily admits that her mother has been a great role model for her.

"Just by her faithfulness to the choir and her love of singing," Phillips said.

Day said the choir has a "nice, family feeling," and it's certainly becoming a family affair for her. Phillips' 14-year-old son Curry is a member of the church's high school ensemble.

Though he's seen living Christmas trees at other churches, the Rev. Philip Nation, who's been at First Baptist of Jonesboro for about four and a half years, said the one here far outshines the others. Members of the congregation certainly seem to like it, he added.

"They invite their friends every year," Nation said. "We normally have about 12,000 people in attendance."

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