After Thanksgiving, a video from the Whisnants began circulating on Facebook telling everyone “how much” the Mark Trammell Quartet love fruit cake; and with their Home For Christmas Tour beginning, they wanted to be sure everyone was encouraged to bring MTQ fruit cake during the tour. Well, when we went to the Home For Christmas concert at Beryl Baptist Church in Vilonia, Arkansas we decided against bringing fruit cake. Ends up we didn’t need to…everyone else brought them sacks of it!
Seated in the church sanctuary, all was a normal Gospel concert. If you didn’t catch the unreal amount of nasty looking loaves of jelled fruit and flour that were being stashed underneath the MTQ product table, you probably wouldn’t have noticed anything was amiss. Truly, when Pastor Wade Lentz welcomed everyone to Beryl Baptist and began the night in prayer…all seemed normal.
“Make welcome the Mark Trammell Quartet and the Whisnants!” Pastor Wade exclaimed. A robust collaboration of strings, trumpets and other instruments began the Faithful Medley as MTQ and the Whisnants took the stage and sang O, Come All Ye Faithful and Joy To the World. Without pause, the program continued with Unspeakable Joy. “How many are looking forward to a great night?” Susan Whisnant asked the crowd. “We pray that this little part we’re doing will make your Christmas a little happier.” With that said, Jeff interjected, “It is a joy to be in Vilonia, Arkansas tonight. Friends, we’re singing about the King of Kings and Lord of Lords; let’s have a good time. The Word says if we lift Him up, He will draw all men unto Himself. That’s what we want to do – lift Him up.” Then, Jeff turned to Mark, who added a little about the tour and why they began touring together as “Home For Christmas.” “A wonderful family,” Mark said, indicating the trio on stage, “Make them welcome as they come to sing for you tonight, the Whisnants.”
Both the Whisnants and MTQ each sang a segment by themselves while the other group stayed on stage, sitting on stools behind them. They began with I Call Him Lord until Jeff exclaimed, “Here’s an old one, if you know it sing along!” and went into Come On Ring Those Bells; where Aaron and Susan shared the verses. Afterwards, Jeff thanked the church for having them and introduced all the members of the family, starting with Austin, who recently married! After Ethan was brought on stage and introduced, he, Austin and Jeff sang I Lean On You Lord, followed by Susan singing God Is So Good. She went on to say that even though they were going to sing Christmas songs, she felt led to sing this next song…Worry Ends Where Faith Begins. Then they ended their set with Without Christ There’s No Christmas.
“Would you make welcome our friends, the Mark Trammel Quartet?!” Jeff announced. A lone fiddle kicked off MTQ’s first song O, Beautiful Star of Bethlehem with God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen following. Mark introduced the group next because of the member change since they were last there. As Mark talked about growing up not far from there in Searcy, Arkansas, he casually mentioned, “Your pastor use to be my friend – but he’s not anymore. He’s gonna get some fruit cake for Christmas. The Bible says, ‘Vengeance is mine, saith the Lord,’ and I don’t have a problem with that…but I like to help God do a lot of things!” LOL! They had a few requests for Your Walk Talks before the concert began, so they sang that one next. “Because of the Christ child and because of His death on Calvary,” Mark began, “this song should remind every one of us to get up tomorrow and serve the Lord like we never have. Whatever we want to do for Him, we better get doing it. Today is the day.” The song introduced was no other than Too Much To Gain To Loose, which received a standing ovation. Then, the Whisnants joined them as both groups sang New Day Dawning.
Pastor Wade came on stage to conduct the offering and dismiss us for a short break. Taking a mic, Pastor Wade explained, “Mark was talking about blaming me for these fruit cakes…well, I’m use to it, I’m a pastor, I get blamed for everything!” LOL!
After the break, they kicked off the second half with Jesus Brought Joy to the World. Mark explained that they wanted to repeat something they did last year. In fact, they had so much fun with this song last year they wanted to do it again! At that point, folks pretty much knew what he was talking about. When Mark asked for 12 volunteers – hands went up immediately. After assembling the 12 volunteers in a line, Mark and Susan began to sing, “On the first day of Christmas my true love gave to me…” and the volunteers did the rest! As I looked across the line of volunteers I couldn’t help but notice how many young folks were eager to take part. I’d say most of the folks up there were under the age 20 – and they enjoyed themselves! Afterwards, as the volunteers were going back to their seats Aaron Hise (Whisnants) came walking down the middle isle with a BOX full of FRUIT CAKE and bestowed it upon Mark and the guys! During the rest of the concert, the “box” sat on the bass monitor in front of the stage.
Mark went on to introduce what was his mother’s favorite Christmas song. “She loved this song for whatever reason,” he began, “and in honor of my mom, I want to sing this song – it features me (turning to all the other singers sitting behind him) so just hang out and don’t make any noise…or eat fruit cake.” LOL! He went into a smooth rendition of The Christmas Song; which didn’t take long to be interrupted! In the middle of the song, Austin brought out Santa hats and handed one to each person. As everyone else flipped on their red hats, Susan just sat there with her eyes deeply concentrating on the back of Mark’s head. Just then, the others began laughing and Mark turned around. As he peered at them slowly, Susan crumpled the hat up in her hands, hiding the glittery crown of her hat until he turned back around. Sneaking up behind him, she set it on his head and flipped the white pom-pom smack dab in the middle of his face. Needless to say, it didn’t stay on his head for long. 😉
“It’s not just words you hear the pastor say in a black room under a little bitty light, trying to read this in the midst of a play, where kids are pretending to be shepherds and wise men; it’s reality. It’s not just a story from a book…it actually took place.” He went on to read Luke chapter two which led into Silent Night and O Holy Night. Before they went into their next song, Mark took a few minutes to set up why he felt it is so significant for this time of year. He said, “Allow me to be personal for a moment, if you will. While we were driving up 168 today, we went by Rest Hills, that’s where my mom and dad were laid to rest. All day today, I’ve been thinking about them. I miss them; this time of the year especially. There was a writer, who just a couple of years ago wrote a song after Jeff’s Dad passed away. I want you to listen to the message of this song. Maybe someone here, it’s your first year going into the holiday season without a loved one who was here last year. If that’s the case for you, I want you to listen to this reality our loved ones are experiencing right now as we sit here tonight.” Susan came and sang “If You Could See What I See” – a beautiful ballad about the kind of Christmas our loved ones have every year in heaven. The next song was The King Is Coming with both groups singing. What a neat song to have in a Christmas concert! Pastor Wade came on stage to close the evening with a special prayer for a 10 year old girl who is sick with a rare disease. He asked Mark to pray and after the prayer Wade said, “I love to hear Mark sing, and I love to hear him preach…but I love to hear Mark pray.” Then he lightened the mood and added, “And Mark wants to tell everyone that if you brought them a fruit cake, you have to buy two Cds before leaving tonight!” LOL! They closed with Pastor Wade joining on stage for Christmas Times a Coming.
Conclusion: Since the Home For Christmas Tour began last year, it has become one of my favorites. I’ve seen other Christmas shows in Gospel Music and even in places like Branson. Though some of them are very good, something special happens when these two groups come together. It’s authentic. It’s real. They have fun (as you can see from all the fruit cake!) but they also know what the meaning of the season is all about – Jesus. This program never strays away from Him and that’s what I love about it!