The greatest gift you can give this Christmas is a play about the end times.

Merry Apocalypse 

The greatest gift you can give this Christmas is a play about the end times.

In the lobby of the Sheffield Family Life Center, one of Pastor Fel Bagunu's congregants alerts him that a gun is missing. Normally, this would be grounds for concern. But in this case, guns are props in the holiday production of the postrapture play Tribulation Christmas, so it just means that one of the Antichrist's soldiers will have to go without.

Now in its 23rd year, Tribulation Christmas follows a band of Christians and Jews who, left behind after the rapture, refuse to take the mark of the beast, which has been offered to them by the premier of the new world order. "Every year, we rewrite lines and change characters," says Bagunu, who is now in his sixteenth year as director. "We keep adding and taking away, raising it a level."

It seems strange that a man as gregarious and amiable as Bagunu would be mounting a play about Armageddon.

"Well, yes, it's an apocalyptic view of the end times, but it does have a happy ending," he says. "It's unlike any other Christmas play out there. We have musical numbers, but we've got a lot of action and drama." With sword fights spilling into the aisles, flaming blades close enough to warm audience members' hands, and angelic figures swooping overhead, Tribulation Christmas more closely resembles a summer blockbuster.

Besides, the center's massive choir touches on the more spiritual side of Christmas with an opening concert that also includes a twenty-piece jazz band playing seasonal standards. "This show is for everyone, regardless of faith," Bagunu says. "If you have faith, it strengthens your beliefs. And if you don't, it's still an entertaining Christmas show."

Especially when two rows of people carrying M-16s and flags from several nations mount the stage to the sounds of bombastic military music. "This is the processional, when the Antichrist enters," Bagunu says, smiling warmly.

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