The Outdoor Service at the Creche at 5 p.m.
The Christmas Eve Candlelight Service in the Sanctuary at 8 p.m.
Both will include time at the Creche, and both, we hope, will be not turn out too long!
You and your friends or family could decide to have Christmas Eve Dinner in one of Old City’s restaurants after or before (depending on which service they attend).
The Outdoor Service begins with hot chocolate and cookies and caroling out by the creche. The service will be in the tradition of Latin American “Las Posadas,” (“accommodations” in Spanish), traditionally celebrated on the nine days ending on Christmas Eve (and representing the nine months of Mary’s pregnancy).
Mary and Joseph and a Donkey travel from house to house looking for a place to stay in Bethlehem. The last night, these services typically “end up” at the church. We will join their journey at its end, as they come to the Inn where there was no room, but the Innkeeper offered a stable out back. We will watch with wonder as they who could find no welcome, when their turn comes, welcome the child, and the shepherds and the Wise Ones into their humble makeshift home.
“Las Posadas” will be a service of song and prayers. Old First’s courtyard will be decorated with “luminarias.” After the benediction, someone will be chosen for the honor of breaking the piñata (which traditionally signifies Christ’s arrival breaking sin’s hold on humanity) so kids present can scramble for the first sweets of Christmas.
The Christmas Eve Candlelight Service will begin at 8 p.m. It will be a traditional service of lessons and carols, and prayers. Old First’s choir will help lead worship, and there will be brass and string instruments.
The service in the Sanctuary will end when the lights are dimmed and the Christ candle is lit, the Prologue from the Gospel of John read, and the Christ-light spreads as everyone holds a lighted candles as we sing “Silent Night.”
Finally, Mary and Joseph and the rest of the nativity characters and the choir will lead us out to the creche, where we’ll sing the “Joy to the Word” and have the benediction.
The change is being made to create two distinct services, as the schedule that we’ve followed for the last few years had turned into one very long service. Separating them has thrown some Old Firsters’ family traditions into turmoil, but we hope having two services can welcome more people to worship on Christmas Eve. (It’s a hard evening to plan as the majority of our worshipers on this one night a year are visitors.)
We are also going to try some innovations to do a better job of collecting contact information from our worshipers and letting them know a bit more about our church community. As a church, we are about trying to serve people broadly and as best we can.
Let us pray our efforts help more people celebrate Christmas.