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The Christmas Lights at Sandgate Uniting Church. Photo: Supplied

6 ways to rediscover the Wonder

From planning a nativity to hosting carols, Uniting churches across Queensland are creating opportunities to share the joy and hope of the Christmas message. Read about six ways different congregations are helping local communities to rediscover the wonder.

  1. Light up your neighbourhood

Sandgate Uniting Church has been helping people rediscover the wonder of Christmas for more than 25 years through its annual award-winning Christmas Lights program.

The display reflects the gospel message, the story of Christmas recorded in Luke and Matthew, and the spirit of Christmas. These spectacular lights draw hundreds of people each night for the couple of weeks leading up to Christmas.

Each year the displays are organised around a particular theme. Last year it was “Welcome to the Family” and this year it is “Joyful News”.

This event offers the congregation an opportunity to share with the community the true wonder and glory of the birth of Jesus and God’s love for all. As well as the outside lighting there are displays inside, plus free entertainment by bands and choirs, food and gift stalls and a children’s corner.

The spiritual heart of the Christmas Lights event is in the chapel, where the creative displays draw people into deeper conversations about the wonder of Christmas, rediscovering their faith, or even discovering a new relationship with Jesus.

The 2018 event runs from 7 to 24 December (outside lights display) with interior displays and entertainment from 12 to 23 December.

For more information visit sandgate.unitingchurch.org.au

Rev Anne Hulbert

  1. Spread joy wherever you can

Park Church Tongan Congregation in Highgate Hill, Brisbane has been bringing the gift of music to St Andrew’s Hospital and the Wesley Hospital in Brisbane for more than eight years. The event is organised through the hospital pastoral departments.

Park Church looks forward to this great event every year and this is one of the outreach programs that I look forward to every year! The amazement and the joy that the singing brings to these patients really warms my heart. The patients are definitely not at their best physically, but to see their smile when they hear the singing, you know what a great mission it is to sing the message of Christmas.

My hope for the future is that this outreach mission will continue to happen every year. It has really impacted not only the patients but the staff and the visitors. When you see tears flowing from a patient’s eyes, you know for sure that what we are doing is not in vain!

This ministry really helps people to rediscover the wonder of Christmas. The peace and joy really come alive in music and the exchange of smiles between the choir and the staff and patients.

Park Church will sing Christmas carols at the Wesley Hospital at 6.30 pm on 13 December, and at St Andrew’s Hospital at 6.30 pm on 18 December.

Rev Maile Molitika

  1. Be bearers of comfort and hope

St Andrew’s, Yeppoon began an annual Blue Christmas service several years ago when local funeral director Harry Holland wanted to provide a time of remembrance for people whose loved ones had passed away during the year. The theme has changed over the years from “Blue Christmas” to “Silver Lining Christmas” to the current theme of “Comfort and Hope”.

There are people who come every year, some who come only on the first year, and others who are too far away to travel to Yeppoon but still send their thanks that we have remembered them and their loved ones.

This event helps people rediscover the wonder of Christmas by gathering together; spending time in storytelling, reflection and response. In this sacred space we discover that there is no need to pretend, no need to put on brave faces or smiles.

People are free to sit with thoughts and feelings while others respond by touching a water feature or stones, or remembering family and friends by writing on one side of a decoration and hanging it on the tree. The decorated tree stays in the sanctuary throughout Advent and Christmas.

We are encouraged by the stories of others and are intentional about remembering that our comfort, our peace, our hope is wholly and completely in who Christ is, and what he has done for us on the cross.

The 2018 Service of Comfort and Hope was held on 28 November.

Rev Suzy Sitton

  1. Re-tell the story

Townsville Central City Mission is one of the Townsville Uniting churches supporting Stable on the Strand with donations and volunteers (a total of 1000 are required).

Stable on the Strand, the North Queensland Christmas Festival, has been telling the story of the birth of Jesus every year since 2002. The annual event is an activity of the Combined Churches of Townsville and about 65 churches from across all denominations will participate.

The town of Bethlehem is recreated on Townsville’s popular waterfront location, Strand Park, using live actors. Our guests engage with the shepherds, the wise men, the innkeeper, King Herod, Roman soldiers and of course Mary, Joseph and “a real live baby Jesus” as they share the Christmas story.

Crowds of 40 000 are expected over the five evenings from 18 to 22 December (5.30 pm–9.30 pm). This year renowned children’s entertainer Colin Buchanan will entertain from the main stage supported by local singers, musicians and dancers.

There will be plenty of interactive activities for children and young people.

For more information visit stableonthestrand.com.au

Richard Hosking

  1. Join with others

Maranoa Uniting Church congregations are made up of Roma and Wallumbilla Uniting churches, Injune Churches Together and Arcadia Valley Faith Community. The annual Christmas carols are hosted by the combined Christian churches in Roma, making us one of the few communities where the churches host the carols rather than the local council.

Our 2018 community carols will be held on 16 December in the council auditorium, kicking off with a sausage sizzle hosted by our local school chaplaincy committee as an awareness of the work that chaplaincy does throughout the year and to help raise a few dollars.

Admittance to the carols is free. We have community groups who come together and there’ll be a choral group who will lead the carol singing and several dramatic items by various churches to portray the Christmas story.

We’ve been running this event for at least 12 years; of necessity the combined churches here work really well ecumenically with activities and worship.

This year we will have a first—I managed to persuade the men’s shed to build a stable for us, one we can dismantle, and this will be its inaugural year.

We get up to 350 people, depending on the weather. The presentations have varied over the years, but the main thing is to get the community together singing Christmas carols and remembering what Christmas is supposed to be about.

Lyn Kajewski

  1. Together, preach the good news!

Atherton Community Carols by Candlelight began over ten years ago when a committee from the Atherton Tablelands Christian leaders (ministers’ fraternal), headed by Rev Leo Newell from the Atherton Uniting Church, got together to present family-friendly Christmas carols.

The free event occurs in the first week of December at the Merriland oval and grandstand area where people can sit in the stands or on the grass. Attendance is around 1000 to 1200.

While the churches provide the leadership, as well as funding and much of the people power, the council and members of the public provide support and equipment. A stage must be set up in the middle of the oval, complete with sound, lighting and video equipment. Food stalls provide dinner and snacks, and LED candles lend atmosphere.

Weeks before, the program for the night is planned, music distributed, and performers from all churches begin their rehearsals. Music ranges from traditional carols and contemporary Christian songs to popular Christmas songs. A special band of musicians comes together for the event and performers are of all ages.

A nativity play is usually included and a short Christmas message is given by one of the Christian leaders.

Carols by Candlelight brings the community together in a common purpose to celebrate Advent, bringing hope, peace, joy and love. In a world that is so drowned in sadness and sorrows, events like this help the community to come together and to celebrate the good things in life through the creator.

The 2018 Carols by Candlelight was held on 1 December.

Rev Johnson Makoti

 

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