“And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon [the shepherds], and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid. And the angel said unto them, ‘Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.’” (Luke 2:9-13, KJV)
Christmas Eve Candlelight Communion is always special at First UMC of Florence as our faith family gathers to celebrate the Nativity of Jesus. In addition to our members who attend regularly, we look forward to seeing extended family members who are home for the holidays and other visitors who come to experience the mystery and awe inspired by the birth of our Savior. This year, we’ll worship on Saturday evening, December 24th, at 5:30 pm with special music, dance, and Holy Communion. According to early weather forecasts, it will be a chilly evening, for the high on Saturday is predicted to be 25 degrees. Our sanctuary will be warmed by the faith, fellowship, and family atmosphere generated by all those present, more than making up for the wintry air outside. For those unable to get out, we’ll also Livestream our service on Facebook.
Christmas Eve is a time to think back over the past year and to look ahead to the next. We’ve faced some challenges in 2022 with a struggling economy due to inflation, an aging facility needing repairs, and the discernment process concerning our future in the UMC. That’s only part of our story because we’ve also experienced some highlights as we’ve taken in several new members and baptized five babies. We celebrated 200 years as a Methodist congregation and learned more about our remarkable history. We see a steady stream of weekly visitors—including young couples—who thankfully return repeatedly to worship with us. Our family worship service is growing, too, and it’s a joy to watch our children take on leadership in the worship service, including their inspiring Christmas program! Our Youth Ministry is growing, although many young people are turning their backs on the church. We’ve had outstanding performances from our Music Department throughout the year, including the Easter Cantata, the Handy Concert, and the spectacular Christmas Cantata. We look forward to more special presentations in the future. Among those members and attendees who are the most committed, there is energy and optimism about our future. God isn’t finished with us yet!
In preparing for the Christmas Eve service, we want people to come away from our time together knowing more about the God we know—the God who draws near—Immanuel—God with us! We want people to experience the holy presence of the Savior who is born to us this day—Jesus Christ—who sets us free from sorrow and sin! We want people to feel the joy of a new life provided by the One we celebrate as our Newborn King! We can’t wait to see you on Saturday evening as we recall how our Salvation has come through a Babe in a Manger. Don’t forget to invite your friends!
— Senior Pastor Dale Cohen