Pastors prepare for holiday worship services
In a nutshell
The book of Luke, Chapter 2, verses 8 — 14 is perhaps the best-known part of the Christmas story. Here it is, from the New International Version:
8 And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. 9 An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. 10 But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. 11 Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. 12 This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”
13 Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,
14 “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”
EAGLE COUNTY — There are any number of holidays around the winter solstice, but the best-known is Christmas. Both locals and visitors will this evening crowd local chapels and churches to hear the message of Jesus’ birth.
The story is familiar to Christians — a child born in a manger grew up to be the savior of mankind — but the gospels often lead to different angles from year to year, depending on the state of a congregation or the world.
“I think of the scriptures as a gem with many facets — the light strikes the story from different angles at different times,” Pastor Sid Spain said.
Spain, the pastor at the United Methodist Church in Eagle, was still working on his Christmas Eve sermon Wednesday — not an unusual situation. But working through the text of his sermon, Spain hoped to focus on the messages of peace and goodwill.
“A number of people from different traditions celebrate elements of Christmas,” Spain said. “I hope beyond the sentimentality that the (ideas) of kindness and peace would rise out of (the story),” Spain said.
While the Christmas story is familiar, it isn’t universal.
Brooks Keith is pastor of the Episcopal Church of the Transfiguration, which worships at the interfaith chapels in Vail, Beaver Creek and Edwards. Keith said that Christmas Eve every year sees people attend services either for the first time or for the first time in a long time.
“Every year I meet several people who are drawn for reasons they don’t understand — whether it’s childhood memories, or guilt, or the need for companionship. … One of the main reasons to have a chapel is to be open to those people.”
Being home, or at least not being alone, is part of Mount of the Holy Cross Lutheran Church Pastor Scott Beebe’s sermon this Christmas Eve.
As ministers do, Beebe has been poring over the scriptures. And while the common perception is that Mary and Joseph were wanderers, alone in a strange city, Beebe said Joseph, Mary’s husband, was actually coming home to the city of David because his lineage came from that king of Israel.
That makes the story — of God in human form coming to earth — a bit different, since Jesus is born in a town full of relatives.
“God is coming to be with us,” Beebe said, adding that he hopes that message resonates with people in the valley who are away from their own families over Christmas.
“Over the holidays, the heart longs for home,” Beebe said.
SPIRIT OF SHARING
In Edwards, Gracious Savior Lutheran Church Pastor Jason Haynes said his congregation has been encouraged to not just welcome people to church, but to provide a touch of welcome out in the community.
During Advent, the four weeks leading up to Christmas, congregation members each week have been given a gift, then encouraged to share that gift with someone. One week, people were encouraged to scrape a windshield for a stranger, then put a card of welcome on the windshield.
Another week, everyone received a $10 bill, and was encouraged to share it somehow, whether by buying coffee for the next person in line at a coffee shop, giving the bill to someone who might need it or simply slipping $10 into a Salvation Army donation bucket.
That spirit of sharing has an impact.
There are services up and down the valley today; virtually all will fill whatever room they’re in.
Keith said the Episcopal services at all three chapels will be “full to the doorways.” Other congregations see similar scenes and are adding worship times.
“The Catholics have added a second service this year at the Vilar (Performing Arts) Center (in Beaver Creek),” Keith said. That’s another 530 people. … Calvary Chapel has added a second ‘cowboy chapel’ service at 4Eagle Ranch, and that’s 800 people.
“The news of our changing valley is that our footprint of service is expanding,” he said.
Vail Daily Business Editor Scott Miller can be reached at 970-748-2930, firstname.lastname@example.org or @scottnmiller.