CHRISTMAS AT LONG STREET
This begins at the start of December with Advent of course. This year our service was joined together with both the ‘Hanging of the Evergreens’ and the ‘Toy Service’. This was a service of giving – giving toys for those children less fortunate than ourselves, giving our time and talent to create and hang the evergreens during the service, and reading and narrating the word throughout, together with playing the music and singing the glorious hymns.
A lovely service beginning with one of our younger members lighting the first Advent candle. The service proceeded flawlessly with readings and narrations, interspersed with hymns and prayers as the chosen members of the congregation hung the various evergreens over doors as well as the sanctuary, lectern and pulpit. The Rev. Eastman gave us the meaning flowing through this service, reminding us of a baby’s birth, a man’s suffering and his eventual triumph over evil with his love for all.
With the offering of our monetary gifts and the dedication of the toys given, it was a truly lovely service.
On Saturday and Sunday December 8 & 9 Long Street was ‘lit-up’ as the annual Tree Festival transformed the sanctuary with lights and decorations. There were many variations and visitors could vote for their favourite. To my mind all the trees were brilliant in conveying the theme and the message they were depicting but to me the one showing us the truest way of Christmas was Long Street’s nativity tree – bare branches, cold stones and the holy family -what more?
Besides the Christmas trees, there was a raffle and tombola to have a go on. You could have your face painted or buy a decoration. Then when you’d had a good look round, there were refreshments including a selection of cakes before enjoying your lunch of soup and rolls with pleasant company.
An added bonus was the Magna Music Makers playing carols outside the Church (they should have been playing in Bell Street but the Salvation Army Band were there). It was lovely to see the occupants of the flats across the road and cars passing, opening their windows to listen.
The Festival was open again after the Sunday service with more refreshments and friendly chat.
CANDLELIT CAROL SERVICE
In a Church filled with candlelight, surrounded by trees of twinkling colours, families and friends sang both traditional and more modern carols with music from the Magna Music Band and also from Pauline playing on the piano.
Leading into the service was the lighting of the Advent candles followed by the unannounced service of lessons and carols, readings and the age-old Christmas story, given a modern slant, in 5 parts, which contrasted beautifully with the carols, some of which have been sung for centuries. Our lovely service finished with the glorious carol ‘Silent night’, after which everyone was invited to partake of tea or coffee, mince pies and biscuits!!
This was a service led by our Junior Church plus hastily recruited older members of the congregation. The nativity scene unfolded as the 2 narrators, in the background, gave instructions as the story progressed. The children were excellent, with a bevy of angels and a lone shepherd with distant sheep (1 with mum and 2 in the congregation) trying to make their ‘baa’s’ heard!! The oldies were quite satisfactory, with a lovely Mary, ably assisted by Joseph, meeting up with a venerable old innkeeper, who later turned into a royal king when the 3 wise men took the long journey to Bethlehem. A truly epic performance with the lone shepherd making his solitary journey to the stable. All through the service we sang carols with the gentle notes of the piano echoing around the Church.
Three of our members were acknowledged for their service to the Church. Evelyn, our eldest member who up until recently had been playing the organ on alternate weeks for our morning worship, Pauline who still continues to play week by week, and Malcolm who not only arranges our flowers week by week, but also does untold ‘little’ jobs behind the scenes. All fully deserved!
Our service ended with all our thespians on stage while we said the Grace to each other. Afterwards, while we enjoyed tea and coffee, one of our Junior Church delighted us with her piano playing.
This was a service with a difference but still with the same wonderful message – God’s wonderful love for the world.
It began with the lighting of the Advent candle and proceeded, singing carols of celebration interspersed with prayers for the children of the world and the needy. Then we had Ray’s talk about God’s love in the world, concluding with a powerful story of two warring tribes, long ago, whose leaders promised each other peace instead of war if they each exchanged their eldest sons (babies at the time) in time to rule each other’s tribe. It worked, thus showing God’s love in humans, as Jesus was given for us.
We continued to understand his love for the world as the differences in the service began with the congregation being asked to make a Christingle. Young and not so young gathered round a table, at the front of the sanctuary, which was strewn ribbons, sweets, sticks, pins, candles and oranges. Then we were instructed by ‘those who knew’, how to fashion the candle in the top and the sticks and sweets around the sides and the ribbon in the middle. This done, some definitely quicker than me, the oranges were transformed and the candles lit, after which we sang a Christingle carol telling us first of the world (orange) God made, then of the fruits in season we give thanks for (sweets on sticks) and continuing to give thanks for his birth. The red ribbon round the centre reminds us of his death on the cross. Completing the carol we sang of the candle, which when lit shines out as Jesus promised to lead and guide us. A lovely carol which illustrated our theme well.
It was lovely to see several visiting families in the congregation so all the oranges were used up. After the service there was quite a gathering for refreshments, including mince pies. Lots of chatter, and then shouts of ‘goodbye’.
Opening with the lighting of all the Advent candles this was a gentle celebration telling of the story of Christ’s birth in a stable. About a dozen of us sang the wonderful carols with the sound gently weaving its way around the sanctuary. We had prayers for families and then Ray shared prayers taken from the Christmas tree thinking of the homeless and the people who are not so well at this time, remembering that Jesus was poor, born in a shed and then homeless as a man.
Ray then told a story of a man looking back over his life when, as a young shepherd boy in the fields around Bethlehem, he saw the angels giving their message of Jesus’ birth and following the older men to witness the Holy family in the stable, then how he vowed from that night to be a follower of Christ, remembering still the tiny baby and Mary’s gentle smile to him, telling him all would be well.
Ray them asked who had opened presents. Most said that would come later but there were the children among the congregation who had managed to open some, including dinosaurs and dragons!!
At the end of the service everyone wished Christmas greetings to one another with smiles and laughter before making our way homewards leaving the Church with its blazing Advent crown and the manger scene of the baby surrounded by the animals, quietly pronouncing God’s love to us all.