By Sharon Mager
“In the sixth month, the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a town in Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin engaged to a man named Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. And the angel came to her and said, ‘Greetings, favored woman! The Lord is with you.’ But she was deeply troubled by this statement, wondering what kind of greeting this could be. Then the angel told her, ‘Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. Now listen: You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you will name him Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give him the throne of his father David. He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and his kingdom will have no end.'”
Maryland/Delaware churches, seeking to share the joy of Christmas during a pandemic are finding a variety of creative outlets including outdoor and drive-through services. Below is just a sampling of some of the ministries, worship services, and outreaches.
Christmas Walk of Wonder
Bethany Church in Ellicott City will host “Christmas Walk of Wonder” starting at 5 p.m. on Dec. 11-13. Visitors will enjoy an interactive experience featuring seven large theme decorated trees with thousands of lights on the church’s front lawn. They’ll also have a nativity, live animals including a camel, donkey, and mini cows, live musicians, and recorded music. And everything points to Jesus.
Bethany Church Minister of Worship & Arts Sherrie McKay said, “Like everyone else, we were discouraged by the pandemic situation. We started praying, asking God, ‘What we can do?’ In my time with the Lord, He gave me the idea of a walk-through experience in our front yard.” Seven trees will tell the story of Jesus. Each will be decorated according to a theme, and have recorded narration. Themes include Mary, Bethlehem, Shepherds, the Angels, the Magi, and the Cross — emphasizing God’s love for us. “That he loved us so much he gave us his son,” McKay said. Finally, The Life Tree,” represents Jesus. “It’s the biggest, most spectacular tree in the whole yard. Once everything is lit up there are so may lights! It’s gorgeous.”
The church originally planned to have a live nativity, but reconsidered for safety’s sake and decided to use painted artwork to represent Joseph, Mary, and Jesus. McKay explained that due to the pandemic, they’re trying to utilize as few volunteers as possible.
When visitors arrive, they won’t feel like this is a huge event, McKay said. “It will feel intimate. We’re only allowing 25 in the yard every 20 minutes, but we’ve extended the time so people can gradually come through.”
The church hopes to leave the display up following the event so the community can do self-tours.
To help fund the program, the church is having an online silent auction through December 13. A variety of items are available including puzzles, jewelry, plaques, baskets of goodies for pets, and lots more. For more information visit Christmas Walk of Wonder.
Drive through/In Christmas Programs
Riva Trace Baptist Church in Davidsonville, Maryland will have a drive-through Christmas program. From 6-9 p.m. on December 19-20, visitors may drive through the church property to view different scenes of the Christmas story. The church will have nine stations depicting Biblical scenes, from the messianic prophecies to the visitation of the Magi.
Caroling church members will wave goodbye as visitors exit.
The church will have Christmas Eve services indoors at 6 and 8 p.m., observing appropriate Covid-19 related protocol.
Smithsburg Valley Church in Maryland will have a drive-In Christmas Eve service at 5 p.m. The church usually has a “Cookies, Cocoa and Caroling” service, but due to the pandemic, members have been thinking creatively of how to meet and engage their community.
Pastor Allen Youngbar and the praise steam will share from the church’s front porch and volunteers will deliver packaged cookies and cocoa to visitors in their cars upon request. In addition to using speakers, visitors may listen to the service on their car radios.
Yongbar said the abbreviated service will be geared to families with children and will include interactive Christmas fun, such as answering questions by blowing horns or blinking lights. The praise team will lead the congregation in carols. Near the end of the service, participants will be encouraged to turn on their phone or car dome lights in place of traditional candles, and the church will turn out the parking lights while everyone sings a soft tune such as “Silent Night.” Those who can’t attend may watch through Facebook Live streaming.
The drive-in service is an opportunity for families that haven’t felt comfortable to attend in person to join in, Youngabar said. “We haven’t seen some families since March,” he said. The response so far has been positive.
Smithsburg Valley members have continued to minister to their community during the holiday season through a local school, providing food, hats, coats, and gloves for families in need.
Northpoint Baptist Church in Dundalk will have an outdoor cantata at 6 p.m. on December 13. Choir members will share, “I Have Seen the Light,” created by Deborah Craig-Claar. The cantata shares about the various ways in which mankind seeks the light — from a child’s perspective through that of an elderly person. Visitors will enjoy classic Christmas carols with more contemporary holiday songs.
Church members will provide hot beverages and cookies. All are welcome.
Cover photo from 2011 “Walk Through Bethlehem” at Lynnhaven Baptist Church in Pocomoke City, Maryland with Sammy Howser as Joseph and Anne Marie Henry as Mary. The huge event that draws thousands had to be put on hold this year due to the pandemic. The church will have a Christmas Eve service. For time and details contact the church office. (Previously used in BaptistLIFE with permission)