Christ is born! It’s the same message in a COVID-19 world as before, but how we celebrate it looks different this year. Our communities are uniquely open to spiritual conversations during this season, making it a prime time for our churches to reach out.
Here at Courthouse Road church, we’ve had to change our annual lessons and carols service. In the past, members of the church community took turns either reading a scripture or singing a song. The journey in Word and music begins with sin’s entrance into the world, highlights the promise of our coming Messiah, and celebrates the promise fulfilled with the Christ child. Picture caroling in the church with scriptures and songs being read and performed aloud. This year participants will record their parts in the safety of their homes. Then the media team will stitch them together for a video feed streamed on Facebook and YouTube.
The Solid Rock Seventh-day Adventist Church community used to celebrate the birth of the Savior with a concert and presents. With the need for physical distance, the usual refreshments are being set aside, and the event is going virtual. The pastor, Vince MacIsaac, is working with his leadership team to adapt the tradition. This year local musicians will highlight the story of Christ’s birth and how it brings redemption. When leaders gather in the sanctuary, the audience will be online instead of in the pews. The church community can invite their friends and neighbors already part of their quarantine bubble for a shared viewing party. When the concert wraps up, they plan an exciting addition: a drive-through gift line. With kids snuggled safe in their cars, parents can drive by the church to pick up a special gift and greeting from their masked pastor.
According to David Livergood, pastor of the Martinsburg, West Virginia, Seventh-day Adventist Church, this is an opportunity to try something they’ve never done before. In coordination with its Rocky Knoll School, it plans to create a drive-through Nativity. Families will be able to sit in their cars with their cups of hot cocoa, tune their car radios to a designated station, and drive through the Nativity to hear musical numbers and the words to short plays. Groups will hear the angel’s message to Mary, experience the journey to Bethlehem, meet the Christ child in the manger, and celebrate with the Wise Men.
The Holy Spirit is inspiring church communities to find ways to repeat the story of the One who is the reason for the season. Some are hosting caroling on the lawn. Others are choosing a bonfire with s’mores and telling the story of Jesus. Another church community is packing blessing boxes to give to community members that include all the ingredients for a fine holiday dinner. Another church will read the Gospel of Luke, beginning at chapter 1 and reading each day through to Christmas Eve, to complete the story in Luke 24. This will keep the meaning of the season focused on Christ.
One church will participate in a reverse Advent calendar. Each day they will put a specific food item in a box. Then on Christmas Eve they will bring the filled box to the church’s food pantry. Day one is a box of cereal, day two is peanut butter, and on through each day of December. One church will throw a Happy Birthday, Jesus party, complete with drive-by craft pickup before the day of the big event.
The Christ message remains constant in a world changed by COVID-19. The message of Jesus’ birth brings a message of hope that touches our world where it is right now.
Heather Crews pastors the Courthouse Road Church of Seventh-day Adventists in Richmond, Virginia.