I hope that you indeed had a Merry Christmas and for at least part of this season felt a special closeness to God and His wonderful gift to us: Jesus Christ. The month of December is probably the busiest time of year at First United Methodist Church. Let me share some of it with you.
We got December off to a great start with a big group from First Church packing meals for Feed My Starving Children. Rev. Kimberly Scott and our parish nurse, Robin Spencer, made the arrangements for our congregation. We had a nice mix of youth and adults to be part of a three-day event that packed over 2,000,000 meals. Our group, being on the last shift, got to actually pack the meals that exceeded the 2,000,000 mark!
The first Sunday in Advent our Chancel Choir presented its annual Christmas Cantata. They sang Vivaldi’s “Gloria,” and it was heavenly. The choir comprised almost 50 voices and was accompanied by a small but excellent orchestra. Ron Rhode, our organist, and Joshua Elder, our music minister, were superb in leading and directing the piece. It isn’t just beautiful music this time of year, either; the sanctuary takes on an added beauty with the addition of poinsettias, Christmas greens, decorations, our Chrismon tree, and a Christmas tree with ornaments made by our children.
One of the nice holiday events during December is our Taste of Christmas, which serves up lots of treats between services. Our Office Manager Stephanie Wallace, Cathy Rice and Susan Crull put together a great morning with beautiful decorations, the above-mentioned donated treats, and a time of fellowship. Our District Superintendent, Rev. Neil Leftwich, preached that Sunday. I felt bad when I had to tell him the treats weren’t available every Sunday.
Rev. Todd Rodgers and Rev. Kimberly Scott took our youth around to sing Christmas carols to many of our shut-ins. This is something that blesses everyone involved. We received several “thank-you’s” from those who were visited.
Of course, all of this activity builds up to Christmas Eve, which was once again a wonderful time to worship. With Christmas Eve falling on a Sunday this year, we held just one service in the morning at 10 a.m. That evening we had four Christmas Eve services. The first of the evening was at 5 p.m. It is our family service, and it was a full sanctuary to be sure. After the service, the children attended a birthday party for Jesus. Rev. Scott put together a team to provide games, crafts, and great refreshments. The next two services at 7 p.m. and 9 p.m. were more traditional services filling us with hope and joy. The last service of the evening was a first for us. We offered a jazz service featuring Blaise Lantana, who is a valley jazz mainstay. Someone commented that Christmas Eve in Phoenix got a whole lot cooler. Those last two services offered communion and all presented a variation of candle-lighting.
Looking ahead, let me wish all of you a Happy New Year!