- 5pm Blessing of the Elements
- Reading of the Christmas Story from St. Luke
- 5:30-7pm Come and Go Communion
Holy Communion might today be more commonly associated with the celebrations of and before Easter, but Marion United Methodist Church minister Rev. David Combs says it has a place in the Christmas season, too.
His church, the county’s largest Methodist congregation, has long served communion on the Eve of Christmas. The tradition dates back to somewhere in the early 1990s, perhaps earlier.
Amid a decorated and candle-lit sanctuary, the church’s pastor expects to serve about 200 for communion this Thursday evening.
There will be a liturgic blessing of the elements at 5 p.m., followed by reading of the Christmas story from the Gospel of Saint Luke. A come-and-go communion opportunity will follow, with the sacraments served by the pastor. The public may take communion at any time between 5:30 and 7 p.m., and spend as long as they would like in the sanctuary.
The church offers an open communion, so anyone may partake. There are also sealed sacraments for worshipers with a compromised immune system, such as those who are undergoing chemotherapy.
Both the Christmas Eve communion and service are open the entire community.
“Everyone is welcome,” the pastor said.
“It’s a time for reflection about the birth of Christ and the meaning it has for us,” said Rev. Combs.
The preacher said communion is clearly an appropriate sacrament with which to celebrate the beginning of the Christmas season.
“Because of the crucifixion and resurrection the celebration of the birth of Christ has meaning for us,” he said. “That is why we have communion at Christmas.”
The tradition dates back to the Anglican and Roman Catholic churches, and it provides a spiritual connection for the faithful during their most celebrated season.
Rev. Combs reminds us that Advent, the first season of the Christian year, begins four Sundays before Christmas and culminates with the actual beginning of the Christmas season on Dec. 25. The 12 days of Christmas end on Jan. 6, which is traditionally known as the Day of Epiphany. The last day of the Christmas season commemorates the visit of the Magi to the Christ child, and celebrates the son of God as a human being in Jesus Christ. Most congregations celebrate the Day of Epiphany on the Sunday following Christmas.
“We seem to focus on Advent and what has become the holiday season between Thanksgiving and Christmas, but the true Christmas season doesn’t start until Christmas Day,” explained the pastor.
Combs has five children and he knows that many families want to be home for Christmas Eve, but he says fulfillment from the church’s Christmas Eve communion is truly a holy experience.
“To be able to go to the church and to think about the birth of Christ and share communion is a wonderful experience,” he said.
Ethel Tucker, a pillar of the church and one of its longest members at age 98, says the Christmas Eve communion is a blessing.
“It has grown every year and I think more people from outside our congregation come every Christmas,” Tucker said. “It is the highlight of our Christmas Eve. The family goes to communion then we all gather at my house for dinner.”
Helen Moore, 97, who has been attending the same Methodist church since childhood, said the tradition has been going on for as long as she can remember.
“I like to go to the church on Christmas Eve. I think it’s the appropriate place to be,” she said.