Travelers’ Christmas Eve Service

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The Travelers’ Christmas Eve Service is quite the tradition at Park Avenue United Methodist Church in New York City. It is part of our Space for Grace Sunday evening services.

Our location on the Upper East Side of New York City means that we welcome visitors to worship each and every Sunday throughout the year and particularly during Advent as people come to see the sights all decorated for Christmas. We have welcomed visitors to the Travelers’ Christmas Eve service from all over the world.

The Travelers’ Christmas Eve Service also serves our own membership since many of them will already be traveling out of town to visit friends and family for the holidays before Christmas Eve. So this service provides an opportunity for our congregants to celebrate Christmas Eve together at their home church along with visitors from around the nation and world.

Then, on Christmas Eve itself we have two services — a Family Service and a Candlelight Service.

Travelers’ Christmas Eve is a great success (our highest attendance for our evening worship service), and people look forward to this special service each year as it truly captures the peace, hope, love, and joy of the season! Traditionally held on either the third or fourth Sunday of Advent, this candlelight lessons and carols service provides an opportunity to take a break from the busyness of the season and focus on the true meaning of Christmas.

The Travelers’ Christmas Eve service has a different focus each year based on our Advent themes, though it is always filled with the singing of carols, the lighting of the Advent Candles, candle lighting for each worshipper, scripture lessons, Holy Communion, and a Christmas blessing. Our Space for Grace band provides the worship music, and many of our congregants participate in worship leadership by offering the lessons which vary from year to year.

Travelers’ Christmas Eve is a great success -our highest attendance for our evening worship service – and people look forward to this special service each year as it truly captures the peace, hope, love, and joy of the season!

In 2009, the lessons in the service focused on the figures in the birth narrative: John the Baptist, Joseph, Mary, Jesus, the Shepherds and the Angels. In 2008, our Advent theme was Unwrapping Christmas with the lessons drawn from the Gospel of Luke and emphasizing messages of social justice. Each lesson of the service included a scripture lesson, a reflection or poem, and a carol. In 2007, the lessons were drawn from the Old Testament foretelling of the coming Messiah with readings from Micah, Isaiah, and also the Gospel of Luke.

At the conclusion of the service, the celebration of Christ’s birth continues as we carry the light of Christ (our burning candles) from the sanctuary upstairs to the third floor for a festive reception.

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About Author

Jessica Anschutz is senior pastor of a cluster of three United Methodist churches in the Hudson Valley of New York. Previously, she was associate pastor of Park Avenue United Methodist Church in New York City. She participated in the Lewis Fellows program, the Lewis Center's leadership development program for young clergy in 2010 - 2011.


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