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Churches share Advent and Christmas traditions

| December 5, 2018

This Christmas tree on display at The Presbyterian Church features 35 years of Christmas ornaments that have been handed out on Christmas Eve to the congregation. Josie Sellers | Beacon

COSHOCTON – Christmas Eve services are a special time at many area churches, but so is the season of Advent.

“Our Christmas season is Christmas through Jan. 6, which is the Epiphany,” said Deacon Doug Mould from Sacred Heart Catholic Church.

The church has decorations up during that time period and sings Christmas hymns.

“The poinsettias and all the fancy decorations wait until Christmas Eve,” Mould said. “Right now we are in the season of Advent when we are anticipating Christmas. It’s the four Sundays before Christmas when we are waiting to celebrate the birth of Christ, but more importantly the second coming of Christ.”

The Presbyterian Church also celebrates Advent.

“A different family comes up each week and lights the candles on the Advent Wreath,” said Charles Snyder, music director at the church. “We usually don’t sing Christmas songs either during Advent, but sometimes we give in on the last Sunday. Those songs will be picked to fit what is being preached on that Sunday.”

The church’s nativity scene is set up already, but the wise men are off to the side waiting for their time to appear and baby Jesus is left out until Christmas Eve.

In 2001 the church added a new Advent event.

“We have a children’s musical (in lieu of a sermon) on the third Sunday of Advent, and folks in the community come to that, too,” Snyder said.

When Snyder started at the church in 1977 he brought up the idea of starting the tradition of a Christmas Eve candlelighting service.

“The worship committee thought it was a great idea, but the trustees didn’t” Snyder said. “They were scared about the chance of having a fire. We had to have the fire chief come in and talk to us about fire precautions.”

Another tradition at the church started in 1983.

“We wanted to give something out at the Christmas Eve service,” Snyder said. “After the ushers come back with the offering baskets the children’s choir comes and gives out Christmas ornaments.”

The first one was a little star and manager scene and since then they have been handmade counted cross stitch ornaments. There is a Christmas tree setup at the church that displays one ornament from each of the past 35 years.

The congregation also rings in the Christmas season at its Christmas Eve service.

“In 1986 we had an interim pastor whose childhood church burned down because of a candle that was left lit overnight,” Snyder said. “I had to take everyone’s minds off of worrying about that happening because of our candlelighting service.”

He recalled hearing about a tradition in Europe where all over town bells ring at midnight to usher in Christmas. Snyder decided to have volunteers at the church ring bells at the Christmas Eve service and have the congregation join together in the singing of “Joy to the World.”

“Last year we had more than 40 people ringing 104 bells,” he said.

Christmas music also starts 20 minutes before the Christmas Eve service so those who come early can enjoy the sounds of the season.

Emmanuel Lutheran Church is another church currently celebrating Advent.

“We have our Advent Wreath out with its four candles and one in middle,” said Pastor Bryan Kittner. “Each week of Advent symbolizes something a little bit different. The candles are lit to represent the light coming into the darkness, which is Jesus’ birth and his second coming.”

They also set up their nativity scene similar to the Catholics.

“We will have our manger scene out on Christmas Eve, but the wise men don’t come out until after Christmas,” Kittner said. “They are off in the distance and come in afterward.”

An additional tradition at Emmanuel Lutheran Church is the Christmas Eve candlelight service.

“I’m on the go at this time of year and it’s very busy, but for me when this starts it becomes all about the time of worship,” Kittner said. “It doesn’t get any better than this with the mixture of great hymns and the promise of the birth of Jesus and what he proclaimed to do. For me as the pastor this is an opportunity to proclaim the message of God’s gift of salvation, which is the greatest gift of all and what is most important about this whole season.”

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    Category: Faith

    Josie Sellers

    About the Author ()

    I started my journalism career in 2002 with a daily newspaper chain. After various stops with them, I am happy to be back home! I graduated from Coshocton High School in 1998 and received a Bachelor of Arts in Communication in 2002 from Walsh University. I also earned several awards while working for daily papers, including being honored by Coshocton County’s veterans for the stories I wrote about them. I am honored and ready to once again shine a positive light on Coshocton County. I also am the proud mother of a little girl named Sophia!