By Sharon Mager
So many churches are being creative this holiday season that we added a second installment of “Churches find creative ways to celebrate Christmas!” Maryland/Delaware churches aren’t letting a global pandemic stop them from loving their neighbors and sharing the Good News. And note this is just a small sampling of the many incredible ministries and outreaches churches are offering through the holidays.
Puppets Present the Christmas Story
First English Baptist Church (FEBC) in Frostburg, Maryland, will have no problem with actors spreading the Covid virus during their annual Christmas program. They don’t breathe — they’re puppets!
Every Christmas Eve, the church presents a puppet show interspersed with music. Due to the pandemic, this year’s presentation will be abbreviated and moved online “It will be a very basic telling of the Christmas story,” said FEBC Pastor David Sandvick, who has been giving voice to the puppet “Luminos” for the past 20 years. “He’s been around a long time,” Sandvick says of his puppet alter ego.
FEBC Deacon Dr. Gerry Snelson, a master puppeteer and English professor at Frostburg State University, handmade Luminos and has since provided a variety of quality puppets for the church. Snelson also enjoys participating in the productions when able.
This year’s program will feature Leesa Blank as narrator sharing the Bible account of the nativity and Luminos, always happy to provide some fun commentary. The church’s Nativity Puppets will once again act out the timeless story of Jesus’ birth.
At the finale, Sandvick’s daughter, Katie Everly, and his wife, Candy, will sing “Oh Holy Night.”
On December 13, the church presented “Pandemic Christmas,” a fun puppet variety show for the family with lots of laughs. You can check out Sunday’s performance below, and plan to watch the special Christmas Eve Service at 7 p.m. on December 24 on the church’s youtube channel.
A Blue Christmas
Spence Baptist Church in Snow Hill, Maryland, had a “Blue Christmas” worship service on December 13, designed to help people grieving over lost loved ones.
Pastor Kenneth Elligson dedicated a portion of the service, allowing those grieving to light blue candles in remembrance of loved ones. Deacons were available for prayer.
“I believe our light continues to shine even after we are gone. Our impact on lives can last even after we’ve been gone a while.” Elligson quoted The Apostle Paul in Philippians 1:20-21 “My eager expectation and hope is that I will not be ashamed about anything, but that now as always, with all courage, Christ will be highly honored in my body, whether by life or by death.”
During the service, Elligson said, “There are times when our emotions get the best of us…and steal the joy of Christmas. Some of you have said goodby to loved ones this year, and you know it’s going to be different without them being there, and grief will attempt to steal your joy.”
“In spite of a difficult year, can we still focus on the goodness of God?” Elligson asked.
Elligson emphasized the following three thoughts for those in grief:
- We are not alone. Part of the pain of grief is that we feel we are by ourselves in this world and feel like no one else has experienced the depth of pain we feel. Jesus came to show us we are never alone. “He is Emmanuel, God with us, and you are never alone,” emphasized Elligson.
- God is completely able to comfort our hearts. “The horrible pain that comes after the loss of a loved one will never completely go away. But God can bring his soothing comfort..and it will ease that somewhat. As we cuddle up to our heavenly Dad, He can wrap his strong arms of comfort tightly around us and we can sense his presence with us, and He can give us a peace we don’t even understand ourselves.”
- And finally, Jesus came to give eternal life. It means this life isn’t all there is to it. There is more to come. Psalm 16:11, “You reveal the path of life to me; in Your presence is abundant joy; in Your right hand are eternal pleasures.” Elligson said, “We are in His presence here, but one day we will see Him face-to -ace and be in his presence forever.”
You can watch the entire service on Facebook.
Christmas backpacks and more
Bruce Outreach Center (BOC) in Westernport, Maryland, with the help of ministry partners throughout the United States, has been busy supplying their surrounding communities’ needs during the Christmas season. BOC members served families providing Christmas backpacks as well as a separate toy distribution, all with Bibles included.
BOC Pastor Steffan Carr said the Christmas backpacks, filled with toys, games, hats, gloves and school supplies, were made possible through a partnership with Elmore Baptist Association in Wetumpka, Alabama.
Central Park Baptist Church in Decatur, Alabama, and donors from BOC, helped provided toys. Millbrook Baptist Church in Millbrook, Alabama, supplied candy. Additionally, Gap Hill Baptist Church in Six Mile, South Carolina provided Bibles to accompany all of the gifts.
On Facebook, Carr wrote, “In the last eight days, our combined Christmas outreach ministries reached over 125 families and over 420 children
and youth, all of which were introduced to the Good News of Jesus Christ!!” Carr said he is thankful to the church partners who made the ministry possible, and to the BOC family, “…all an army of volunteers with a big heart…sacrificing hours of work.”
Stepping Out for Christmas Eve
LaVale Baptist Church in Maryland will have an outdoor Christmas Eve service. Members are encouraged to “bundle up,” and join together on the church’s front lawn at 6:30 p.m. for a time of caroling, a short message, ending with singing Silent Night, while holding candles.
Those who would like to participate in their cars are also welcome.
Children’s Christmas Tableau
First Baptist Church of Waldorf in Maryland, had an outdoor drive-through Christmas Tableau featuring the church’s children. Leaders recorded the kids reading from the Biblical nativity account for the program narration. The young actors dressed in costume and depicted eight scenes from the Christmas story.
Families drove their vehicles slowly through the lot to view the scenes. “People loved it. Ninety-five cars went through and that was a blessing,” Pastor Randy Stacks said, adding that some drove through several times.
Stacks said the kids were supposed to freeze in place for the tableau, but being children, no one expected that to be the case, especially when you added live animals to the mix. Stacks said with a chuckle, “The sheep were going crazy!”