With each holiday season, East Texas churches host events throughout December to focus on the original reason for the season: the birth of Christ.

The events, which will be held throughout December, offer a time for family and friends across the region to connect with each other and with God.

The Christmas story will be celebrated in re-enactments and song around the region.

Here’s a look at a few East Texas churches planning special holiday activities.

Drive-Through Story of Christ – Forest Home Baptist Church in Kilgore

Forest Home Baptist Church will begin setting up for its drive-through nativity the week after Thanksgiving, with the event set for 6-9 p.m. Dec. 9, 10 and 11 at the church at 15746 County Rd 173 N. in Kilgore.

“We just feel like the Lord’s called us to do it,” said Patrick Monk, the church’s minister of education.

The free event greets carloads of people with oil derricks, and Santa Claus, with music provided by the adult choir and a train area manned by the church’s youth. It’s the back area of the drive-through that focuses on the story of Jesus, by portraying different Biblical scenes: the prophecy of Jesus’ birth; Gabriel and Mary; a market scene that could be Nazareth or Bethlehem; and the shepherds in the field with angels telling them about Christ’s birth; a Nativity scene; another with the Wise Men; and then Jesus praying in the garden.

The event started small and grew over the years, with about 100 to 140 people working as some 1,200 cars drive through each night.

“Our people love doing it,” Monk said.

“Messiah” sing-along Marvin United Methodist Church – Tyler

Marvin United Methodist Church in Tyler will continue a tradition this year of hosting a community sing-along of the section of Handel’s “Messiah” that tells of the birth of Christ and culminates with the famous “Hallelujah” chorus. The concert will be hosted at 5 p.m. Dec. 5 in the church’s main sanctuary.

Several local churches previously offered similar sing-alongs, but Kara Story, the church’s music and fine arts director, said Marvin United Methodist Church is currently the only one that continues to do so.

“Marvin has such a great, longstanding history of good, traditional, classic music,” she said, for decades, since about the 1940s. “We’re just keeping the tradition.”

Before COVID-19 hit, 500 to 600 people would participate in the communitywide event. The church skipped the event in 2020 because of the pandemic.

Story said the church’s large sanctuary has several sides and balconies for seating. Masks are encouraged but not required, and people may practice social distancing by sitting in the balconies.

“Messiah” was written in 1742.

“It’s one of those classics,” and contains all the typical Christmas texts from the Bible that people recognize.

The church also will host its free noontime Christmas concerts each Wednesday in December, starting at 12:05 p.m. The 30 minute concerts are followed by a free soup and sandwich lunch.

This year’s performers are: Dec. 1 – three Tyler Junior College Chorales, the Chamber Singers, Harmony and main concert choir; Dec. 8- Yule Trio, with Kara Story and her husband, Jonathan Story, and Jonathan Chavez; Dec. 15 – the church’s Robinson Hand Bells choir; and Dec. 22 – Rose City Brass, featuring a quintet of professors from the University of Texas at Tyler and Tyler Junior College.

Green Acres Baptist Church in Tyler

Green Acres Baptist Church in Tyler will mark the season with lots of music.

Check the church’s website www.gabc.org for ticketing details about the Dec. 3 and 4 Chris Tomlin concerts at the church.

Then, on Dec. 5, the church will host a community event with a large Christmas tree in the parking lot, food trucks, hot chocolate and activities for children, with a community Christmas tree lighting at 6 p.m.

Then, the biggest event, The Christmas Program, performed by the church’s worship ministry will be staged at 3 p.m. and 7 p.m. Dec 12 and 7 p.m. Dec. 13.

The event attracts about 13,000 people each year.

Mobberly Baptist Church in Longview

Mobberly Baptist Church’s “Sounds of the Season” concerts will return this year, after missing 2020 because of COVID-19.

“It was sad to us that we weren’t able to (host the concert in 2020),” Melinda Burns, the church’s worship coordinator, said earlier this year. “Right now, if all goes as planned, we are planning on having that again this year.”

The concerts are at 7 p.m. Dec. 10-11 and 3 p.m. Dec. 12.

Burns said the concerts feature the church’s full choir and orchestra, with the last half of the program focusing on all sacred music with a dramatization of the Nativity.

“Mobberly has been known for doing musical productions for years, but particularly around Christmas - I guess we started this 10 to 12 years ago as far as a yearly or annual program at Christmas,” Burns said. “We have looked at this always as a gift to the community. It’s important to us to point to the reason for the season, and it’s non-threatening to come to something like this and be entertained and yet hear truth, hear the real reason that we celebrate Christmas.”

The church also will host a dinner Sunday for people served by different ministries in the area, such as Hiway 80 Rescue Mission and the women’s shelter.

Music on the Square – First Presbyterian Church in Longview

First Presbyterian Church in downtown Longview will once again host its Music on the Square Christmas concert series, over three days at lunchtime in the sanctuary.

Check the church’s website for additional information at www.fpclongview.org.


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