Christmas is 22 days away, and local churches are planning a wide range of programs, services, musical events and outreach projects.
Several churches have already gotten into the Christmas spirit – ”adopting” families for Christmas or participating in Operation Christmas Child by preparing a box of gifts for a child overseas.
St. Paul’s Episcopal Church on Roscoe Road began an Advent study on Nov. 13, focusing on "Names for the Messiah" by Walter Brueggemann. Reflections on the names given to the Messiah in Isaiah 9:6 – Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, and Prince of Peace – are being offered.
Debbie Fambro and Kitty Kelly led the Nov. 13 and 20 sessions respectively. Two more sessions remain, both starting at 9:30 a.m. – Everlasting Father, Dec. 4, led by Lauren Gallagher, and Prince of Peace, led by Kelley on Dec. 18.
St. Paul’s also held Stations of Advent on Wednesday. Advent wreath making, crafts and discussion about alternative giving were facets of the event.
Word of God Lutheran Church, 303 Kelly Drive, Suite 10, Peachtree City, began Wednesday evening Advent services on Nov. 30. “Other weekly services will be on December 7, 14, and 21,” Sandy Thomas said.
A catered meal for $5, payable at the door, will begin at 6:30 p.m. Following the meal, “a short, contemplative, and interactive meditation” will be led by Jeffray Greene, the church’s pastor, Thomas said.
Liberty Christian Church, one of Coweta’s oldest congregations, has had a Christmas musical program annually for years. This year, the Liberty Christian Singers will be presenting “Night of Miracles” by John W. Peterson – with a new narration by church member Glenna With.
Mary Jane Miles, longtime Liberty Christian member and retired music educator, will direct “Night of Miracles.”
Chimes in the Night will be staged Sunday at Christ Our Shepherd Lutheran Church in Peachtree City.
“This musical recounts a legend that the cathedral’s tower bells will only ring on Christmas Eve when the most worthy gift is offered,” said David Beecher, the church’s minister of music. The cast includes Isabella Bowers, Hope Catlett, Cortland Crosby, Amelia Ellison, Maiya Frederick, Isabella Frolio, Chelby Gambrel, Andrew Hausner, Vanessa Hausner, Matthew Hawkins, Thomas Hawkins, Marissa Hegrenes, Ava Kelly, Laney Linville, Molly Marland, Ruby Marland, Owen McDowell, Guthrie Preble, Aubrey Riecke, Natalie Sheffer and Ethan Williams.
“The Shepherd’s Flock Chimers will play, as will The Shepherd’s Flock Handbell Ringers,” Beecher said.
Christ Our Shepherd will also present Love Feasts in Moravian Tradition – an evening feast on Dec. 10 and a morning event on Dec. 11. “Love Feasts are worship services, but not communion services, growing out of the New Testament tradition of the Agape meal,” Beecher said.
Each person attending will be given a Love Feast bun, Moravian-recipe coffee or apple juice and a beeswax candle. Music by the sanctuary choir will be featured, along with the Christ Our Shepherd Brass, the church’s flute and clarinet choirs, the da Chiesa strings and the Joyful Noise Ringers.
The Church Band, a cross-generational group, along with the GraceFlock musicians and the Love Feast Consort will also perform. “The instrumental musical offering begins 30 minutes before each Love Feast with carols in the narthex by the Church Band,” Beecher said.
Conductors will include include James C. Hagberg, Karl Dietmeyer, David Byers and Beecher. “The music includes festive arrangements of songs by contemporary composer/performer Michael W. Smith, along with a rich variety of seasonal music and carols for the congregation,” Beecher said.
New this year are three anthems published in 2016: “Miracle in Mystery” by local composer Dr. William A. Pasch, “On This Day Earth Shall Ring” and “See Amid the Winter’s Snow.”
Faith Creek United Methodist Church is offering Cowetans a chance to step back into the biblical setting in which Jesus was born. “Night in Bethlehem” will be presented Dec. 11.
Church member Ruta Dubakaite said “Night in Bethlehem” will be an event for the whole family that will include Christmas shops. Participants will experience sights, sounds, scents and even tastes of what visitors to the ancient city might have known.
Admission is free, and includes refreshments.
Cornerstone United Methodist Church in Newnan will hold its annual Drive-Thru Nativity, “The Greatest Gift,” from Dec. 8-11 from 6-9:30 p.m.
The Drive-Thru Nativity will present the Christmas story, the birth of Jesus Christ, in 10 live scenes. The scenes include the foretelling of the coming Messiah, the angel Gabriel’s visit to Mary, Caesar’s palace and the decree for the census, Mary and Joseph being turned away at the Inn, the Wise men on the way to Bethlehem and the traditional Nativity scene.
“We want the community to see, hear and experience the real meaning of Christmas,” said Paul Griffin, project chairman and Cornerstone UMC member. “We are excited to again share this free presentation with the community.”
Each vehicle going through the Drive Thru Nativity will receive a narration CD – both English and Spanish versions available – at the entrance of the drive-thru. The CD will guide each vehicle through the journey depicting the birth of Jesus. A nightly cast and crew of 130-plus people will help tell the story. Coffee and hot chocolate will be served throughout the evening under the church pavilion.
“This is Cornerstone’s gift to the community; there is no charge,” Griffin said.
Many churches are reaching out in various ways. Crossroads Church is offering free gift wrapping several days this season at Ashley Park. The free outreach will be offered during photos with Santa from noon- 6 p.m. today, Sunday and Dec. 9-11 and Dec. 16-18.
Heritage Christian Church and Providence United Methodist Church are offering ‘Be a Santa to a Senior.’ The project, sponsored by Senior Care, invites area residents to celebrate with local senior citizens who may be alone during the holiday season.
“The holidays can be a troubling time for seniors. They may feel the absence or the distance of loved ones,” said Betty Keane, community educator with Senior Care. “‘Be a Santa to a Senior’ provides a ray of hope for many seniors, and it means so much for them to know that people care and value them as members of our community.”
Individuals participate by picking up a paper ornament at a participating location through Sunday. The ornaments feature seniors’ coded numbers and their desired gifts. Gifts are returned to the churches.
Newnan Presbyterian Church will have a Joy Gift dinner on Dec. 11 after church. Turkey and dressing will be provided, and attendees will bring a side dish or dessert. Reservations are requested by Dec. 8.
At the dinner, donations will be accepted to benefit the Joy Gift Offering of the Presbyterian Church USA.
Christ Our Shepherd will offer a Blue Christmas service, which “invites especially those who will find Christmas bittersweet because they have experienced a loss,” Beecher said. “Words and prayers of hope will be offered, and Holy Communion will be celebrated.”
The COS Flute Choir will provide music at the Dec. 5 service.
Throughout December, churches will be focusing on the birth of Jesus and His coming into the lives of followers. At Mt. Gilead United Methodist Church, 2651 Highway 16 East, Sharpsburg, “Each Sunday of December will include familiar carols – finding hope, peace, joy and love through reflection on seasonal scripture,” at the 11 a.m. service, according to Dr. Lynn Glassbrook, pastor of the historic church.
Today, Dec. 3
• Breakfast with Santa, Cornerstone United Methodist Church, 7:30-11 a.m. Photos with Santa, 8-11 a.m. The menu will include “pancakes, sausage, bacon, grits and more,” Mike Ferrante said.
Tickets are $5, $2 for ages 3-12, free for younger children. Sponsored by Cornerstone’s United Methodist Men.
• Breakfast with Santa, Emory Chapel United Methodist Church, Dresden community, 10 a.m.
• Annual Christmas Tour of Homes, 4:30-9:30 p.m. Sponsored by Newnan Presbyterian Church Preschool and Kindergarten, this year’s tour includes six homes in the College-Temple Historic District and Newnan Presbyterian Church. Information: ww.nppk.org
• “Shepherds and Kings!” musical, sanctuary, Mills Chapel Baptist Church, 6 p.m.
Sunday, Dec. 4
• Jane McRae, violinist, Central Baptist Church, 8:45 and 10:55 a.m.
• Advent Worship with Communion, Faith Creek United Methodist Church, 9:30 a.m.
• "The Night Before Christmas, Then and Now," choir presentation, Emory Chapel United Methodist Church, 10 a.m. “The community is invited to come and hear music from ‘then and now,’” said church musician Jane Johnson.
• Advent Worship with Communion, Allen-Lee Memorial United Methodist Church, 11 a.m.
• Chimes in the Night, musical, Christ Our Shepherd Lutheran Church, Peachtree City, 11 a.m.
• Christmas with the Southern Crescent Chorale, First Presbyterian Church, Peachtree City, 3 p.m. Admission, $25. Also features Peeples Elementary School Chorus and Madras Middle School Singers.
• “CHEERS!” Griffin Choral Arts concert, First United Methodist Church, 1401 Maple Drive, Griffin, 3 p.m. Admission, $15.
• Covered Dish Supper, fellowship hall, Faith Creek United Methodist Church, 5 p.m. There will be a white elephant gift exchange, and gifts should cost $5 or less.
• “Shepherds and Kings!” sanctuary, Mills Chapel Baptist Church, 6 p.m.
Monday, Dec. 5
• Advent Penance Service, St. George Catholic Church, 7 p.m.
• Blue Christmas Service, Christ Our Shepherd Lutheran Church, Peachtree City, 7 p.m.
Wednesday, Dec. 7
• Family Night Supper/Christmas Carol Sing-a-Long, fellowship hall, Newnan Presbyterian Church, 6 p.m. Reservations requested.
Thursday, Dec. 8
• Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary, St. George Catholic Church, 8:30 a.m., noon, 6 p.m. Spanish service, 8 p.m.
• Drive-Thru Nativity presents “The Greatest Gift,” Cornerstone United Methodist Church, 6-9:30 p.m.
Friday, Dec. 9
• Drive-Thru Nativity/”The Greatest Gift,” Cornerstone United Methodist Church, 6-9:30 p.m.
Saturday, Dec. 10
• Annual Christmas Party, Mt. Gilead United Methodist Church Sharpsburg, 6 p.m.
Children, youth, and adult choir will join together to present “Looking for Christmas.” “Following the play, attendees are invited to take part in a shared meal,” Glassbrook said.
Participants are encouraged to bring a side dish or dessert to share. “Meats, beverages and place settings are provided,” Glassbrook said.
• Drive-Thru Nativity/”The Greatest Gift,” Cornerstone United Methodist Church, 6-9:30 p.m.
• Love Feast in Moravian Tradition, Christ Our Shepherd Lutheran Church, Peachtree City, 6 p.m.
• Parish Christmas Party, St. George Catholic Church, 7 p.m.
Sunday, Dec. 11
• Christmas Handbell Music, Central Baptist Church, 8:45 and 10:55 a.m.
• Children’s Christmas Pageant with costumes, sanctuary, First United Methodist Church, Newnan, 10 a.m.
• Youth Girls Ensemble, Central Baptist Church, 10:55 a.m. Also handbell choir and Russell Wilson, oboist.
• Lessons and Carols presented by the sanctuary choir, Newnan Presbyterian Church, 11 a.m.
• Love Feast in Moravian Tradition, Christ Our Shepherd Lutheran Church, Peachtree City, 11 a.m.
• Joy Gift Lunch, fellowship hall, Newnan Presbyterian Church, noon.
• Children’s Christmas Play, Providence Baptist Church, Providence Church Road, 4 p.m.
• ”The Many Moods of Christmas,” Dunwoody United Methodist Church Sanctuary, 1548 Mt. Vernon Road, Atlanta, 4 p.m. Brentley Cauthen, the church’s fine arts administrator, described “Moods” as “an exciting work in four suites featuring arrangements of classic Christmas carols for choir and orchestra by Grammy-winning conductor of the Atlanta Orchestra and Chorus Robert Shaw and renowned Broadway orchestrator Robert Russell Bennett.”
The presentation will feature “18 timeless carols, each with its own distinct style and character,” Cauthen said. The church’s chancel choir will be conducted by C.G. Walden III.
• “Night in Bethlehem,” Faith Creek United Methodist Church, 5:30- 7:30 p.m.
• Christmas With Rodrigo Rodriguez, First Baptist Church, Newnan, 5:30 p.m.
Rodriguez – noted Latin, Christian guitarist – will share his talents at the free holiday event. The church’s sanctuary choir, senior high choir and orchestra will be singing. Also in the program will be the High Handbells, Men's Quartet and Good News Children's Choir.
Rodriguez will join with the First Baptist musicians to present “combined choral pieces and some of his most signature guitar Christmas solos,” said Lee Chitwood, minister of music at First Baptist. Chitwood said there will be a carol singalong and an “evening of Christmas music that will be unforgettable.”
• Drive-Thru Nativity/”The Greatest Gift,” Cornerstone United Methodist Church, 6- 9:30 p.m.
• Children’s Christmas Program, Central Baptist Church, 6 p.m. Bailey Cauthen will play the flute. Pizza dinner to follow.
• Adult Christmas Cantata, First Baptist Church, Moreland, 6 p.m.
Wednesday, Dec. 14
• Birthday Party for Jesus, parish hall, First United Methodist Church, Newnan, 5:30 p.m.
• Night of Worship – Vivaldi's "Gloria," sanctuary, First United Methodist Church, Newnan, 7 p.m. Presented by chancel choir and orchestra.
Friday, Dec. 16
• “Jesus Means Christmas to Me” by Luke Gambill, children’s music program, Cornerstone United Methodist Church, 6:30 p.m.
Sunday, Dec. 18
• Christmas Musical Program, Newnan Chapel United Methodist Church, 72 Robinson St., 10 a.m.
• Christmas Program, Providence Baptist Church, Summers-McKoy Road, immediately following 10 a.m. service.
• ”Praise Noel,” cantata, and candlelight communion, White Oak First Baptist Church, 11 a.m.
• “O Holy Night,” choir presentation, sanctuary, First United Methodist Church, Newnan, 3
p.m. and 6 p.m.
• ”Night of Miracles,” Liberty Christian Church, 948 Macedonia Road, 5 p.m. Featuring the Liberty Christian Singers.
• Christmas Communion, Central Baptist Church, 6 p.m. Flutist Bethany Lukehart Groth will provide music.
• Children's Christmas Musical, First Baptist Church, Moreland, 6 p.m.
• “The Mystery and the Majesty” by Joseph Martin, adult cantata, Cornerstone United Methodist Church, 6:30 p.m.
Monday, Dec. 19
• Christmas Caroling, leaving Allen-Lee Memorial United Methodist Church, Lone Oak, 6 p.m. Refreshments.
Wednesday, Dec. 21
• Service of Prayer and Healing, sanctuary, First United Methodist Church, Newnan, 6:30 p.m.
• Christmas Carol Service, Providence Baptist Church, Providence Church Road, 6:45 p.m.
Friday, Dec. 23
• Frohe Weihnachten, German Christmas service, historic sanctuary, First Baptist Church, Newnan, 7-8 p.m.
Dr. Wayne Jenkins, Western Baptist Association missionary, will lead the service completely in German. The service will feature famous German Christmas carols like "Stille Nacht" and a Christmas sermon.
Jenkins and his wife, Pam, and family lived in Germany for 25 years, where he served as pastor in local German Baptist congregations. He had the opportunity to lead seminars, retreats and events all over Germany and Austria in German.
Christmas Eve, Dec. 24
• Traditional Christmas Worship, First United Methodist Church, Newnan, 11 a.m., 4 p.m. and 11 p.m.
• Christmas Eve Service, Liberty Christian Church, 11 a.m.
• Children’s Liturgy, St. George Catholic Church, 4 p.m.
• Christmas Eve Services, Cornerstone United Methodist Church, 4:30 and 11 p.m.
•Christmas Pageant and Communion Service, Newnan Presbyterian Church, 5 p.m.
• Christmas Eve Communion, Providence Baptist Church, Providence Church Road, 5 p.m.
• Christmas Eve Candlelight Service, First Baptist Church, Moreland, 5 p.m.
• Contemporary Candlelight Service, parish hall, First United Methodist Church, Newnan, 5:30 p.m.
• Christmas Eve Candlelight Service, Faith Creek United Methodist Church, 5:30 p.m.
• Candlelight Christmas Eve, First Baptist Church, Newnan, 6 p.m. This service will feature “our college students home for the holidays and sharing Christmas favorites all centered around the Lord's Supper,” Chitwood said.
• Family Christmas Service, Central Baptist Church, 6 p.m.
• Christmas Vigil, St. George Catholic Church, 6 p.m.
• Christmas Eve Candlelight, Luthersville United Methodist Church, 6 p.m.
• Christmas Eve Service, Mt. Gilead United Methodist Church, Sharpsburg, 6:30 p.m. “The service is family-centered and will end with candlelight as we sing ‘Silent Night,’” Glassbrook said.
• Communion and Candlelight Service, Newnan Presbyterian Church, 7 p.m.
• Spanish Christmas Mass, St. George Catholic Church, 8 p.m.
• Festival of Lessons and Carols with string quartet, Central Baptist Church, 11 a.m.
• Midnight Christmas, St. George Catholic Church, midnight. Christmas music prelude, 11:30 p.m.
Christmas Day, Dec. 25
• Our Lord’s Birthday Service/Adult Christmas Musical, Providence Baptist Church, Providence Church Road, 9:30 a.m.
• Christmas Day Mass, St. George Catholic Church, 10 a.m.
• Chancel Choir and Brass, Central Baptist Church, 10:55 a.m.
• Combined Christmas Service for Luthersville and Allen-Lee Methodist congregations, Allen-Lee Memorial United Methodist Church, 11 a.m.