Experience Christmas Eve this year in a traditional setting

| December 4, 2019

FRESNO – In this technologically-advanced age, sometimes it’s nice to unplug from the world around us and get back to what really matters – friends, family, and spending time with those we love. This year make your Christmas Eve a little more meaningful as Fresno United Methodist Church hosts its annual Christmas Eve Services in John and Jackie Wilkins’ barn.

“It’s an incredible experience,” said Pastor Dan Eggan of Fresno UMC. “There will be up to 100 folks there on Christmas Eve. They have hay bales set up on the floor, and the Wilkins’ open the hay mow for people to sit. They cover themselves up with blankets, and we pass out LED candles. The first time I was there, I thought this is like the sermon on the mount. They make homemade cookies and donuts, and the first year I was there, they had goats just walking around the barn.”

The church has been hosting its Christmas Eve services in a barn for about 20 years and the Wilkins have been hosting it at their barn for about six years.

“John and I are very blessed to have all these people chose to spend Christmas Eve with us,” said Jackie.

The driveway leading up to the barn is lit with luminaries, and John transports people up to the barn in a hay wagon. There is no heat in the barn, so make sure to dress warm and bring a couple of blankets. Although the service begins at 10 p.m., the community is invited to come a little early for some cookies, donuts, hot chocolate, and coffee.

“The first time I was serving at these churches, I went out to the Wilkins’ to see where the service was going to be,” said Eggan. “John took me up to the barn, and it was an old drafty barn. There’s no heat in there. It’s so neat to see these families and their kids all nestled up in there under their blankets.”

The service is traditional, and there is no electricity, so hymns are sung acapella.

“I think if you come, you will feel the magic,” said Jackie. “It’s a sacred time. It’s a fun time, but it’s a sacred time. We try to keep the service very reverent.”

The service lasts about an hour. Songs will be sung, the Gospel will be shared, and the Word of God will be proclaimed.

“They always have a reenactment of the nativity,” said Eggan. “One of the unique things I would say, a component I have never been a part of is that the congregation is involved in preparing the manger for the baby, and that’s really a special moment.”

With the livestock surrounding everyone in the service, no electricity, and worshipping in a barn, it brings the experience of the birth of Christ a little bit closer.

“You would have to experience it,” said Eggan. “If you’re curious, come experience it. I imagine it’s not for everybody, but when I was pulling away after my first Christmas Eve there, I thought, I wouldn’t even know how to describe this to anybody. It’s the setting. It’s the sights, the sounds, and the smells. You’re smelling the hay and hearing the animals. It is chilly and you’re kind of taken back to that time in Bethlehem. The community who comes together and gathers together, they really want to be there. The people gathered together, the light glowing from the candles, families all huddled together in the hay mow, it’s just very unique.”

Jackie said that even though this event was started by Fresno UMC, the community as a whole has supported it since the beginning.

“In this highly-technological rushing world, there’s something to be said for the simplicity and reality of this service,” said Jackie. “With the amount of people who come, people seem to be drawn to that. It’s about people in a cold barn trying to relive that holy night.”

The Wilkins’ barn is located at 28047 SR 93, Fresno, a couple of miles north of Fresno. The barn has a quilt on the side.

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Category: Faith

About the Author ()

I have been employed at the Coshocton County Beacon since September 2009 as a news reporter and assistant graphic artist. I am a 2004 graduate of Newcomerstown High School and a 2008 graduate of Capital University with a bachelor’s degree in Professional Writing. I am married to John Scott and live in Newcomerstown. We have two beautiful daughters, Amelia Grace Scott and Leanna Rose Scott.

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