Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Christmas at the Stable

Christmas Eve is a “biggy” for most Presbyterian Churches. Many, if not most, PCUSA churches will have a Christmas Eve candle light service. Individuals and families will be in church to celebrate the birth of Jesus. The services will be beautiful.

Things at Evergreen are a little different. Traditionally, our fourth Sunday of Advent has a larger attendance than our Christmas Eve candle light service. Families (and those who only attend at Christmas and Easter) come to this service. We do have a Christmas Eve candle light service. The choir will sing—all the usual stuff. It will be a great time.

The biggest difference for Evergreen is our “Christmas at the stable.” People gather at the church at 10:45 pm on Christmas Eve. They will be bundled up in heavy coats, stocking hats and gloves. At approximately 11:00 pm we get into our cars and travel about half a mile to a barn. Years ago it was a “working” barn. The people who currently own the barn do not have any livestock. We cover the floor with straw and bring in hay bales for people to sit on. We have almost as many people go to the barn worship service as we do for our candle light service.

The service at the barn is cold, dark and simple. We sing Christmas carols while accompanied by the guitar. We know that there is no way to duplicate that night when Jesus was born—yet, this experience is closer to the real thing than our warm, sanitized Christmas Eve service. About 40% of those who attend the “barn” service do not attend Evergreen. Some of the people grew up at Evergreen and have returned to spend Christmas with parents and grandparents. Still, many of the people at that service do not attend Evergreen or any other church.

Next year, it may be time for your church to think “outside the box” for Christmas Eve. We can keep doing the traditional things we always do. And, we can add some new elements to our Christmas Eve worship.

Note: One special twist that we have added is a candle light (sort of) time. We cannot light candles in the barn—we would end up with a HUGE bonfire. We use the Snaplight Lightsticks. We pass them out just prior to singing Silent Night. With the lights out we crack the light sticks and in a matter of moments the greenish glow of the light sticks lights up the barn. The kids love it!


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