WRITTEN BY: Luke Suciu
Headwaters Church is having two Christmas Eve services this year, one at 5pm and the other at 7pm both at 2000 N. Wells Street, and the service has been in the planning process for three years. Three years ago, I (Luke) was pastoring our church plant and in the first year of the plant Christmas was on a Sunday, which placed us in a bit of an unusual spot. We did not have any tradition as a church related to Christmas and there were more than a few churches that chose not to have Sunday morning services at all. Their thinking was that immediate families had routines—something about presents under trees—and the church could just have service on Christmas Eve and allow for Christmas morning to be an exclusively family time.
As we thought about Christmas morning we concluded that conceding our Sunday services simply because our culture had attached a time of opening gifts to Christmas morning was allowing the culture to dictate the highest value of in the Christmas Season. From a critical perspective, the most important moment in human history, the incarnation of God in the person of Jesus Christ, was being devalued in favor of family based nice commercialism. It was a pagan tradition that was boxing out the church’s remembrance of the story of Christ. That being said, it did not seem like a Sunday where we should simply have our normal service. So, without having any expectation surrounding Christmas services within our church, we were in a place to be flexible and creative.
We decided we would structure our service to be the exact opposite of cancelling Sunday services on Christmas morning so families could open gifts. We took a pagan tradition—the evergreen tree, which was originally brought inside to show the power of the sun that lasts even through the darkest days of winter—and covered it in the story of Christ. That morning there were no kids’ programs of any kind, instead everyone young and old crowded into the sanctuary. The kids got a small bag when they entered with ornaments that corresponded to the Christmas story (angel, manger, shepherd, etc.) and through the morning we read through the story of the birth of Christ, stopping at moments to sing Christmas songs and with each song the kids we directed to place their corresponding ornament on the tree.
By the end of the morning the pagan tradition of the evergreen tree was barely visible as the Christmas story was covering every little patch of green. That service is one of my most fond memories from our church plant that has now re-merged with our planting church to become Headwaters Church. And this Christmas Eve we are going to continue in the line of thinking that originally led us to embrace the Christmas story and box out the peripheral pagan practices as we give the incarnation center stage in our thinking. Our church family will gather, to remember well and to set up trees and cover them with the story of Christ.