Christmas Day is Thursday, and local and area churches will celebrate the Christian holiday with special musical events and services beginning today.
For the members of First Baptist Church in Tullahoma, this is a particularly busy time of the year, as the annual “Night in Bethlehem” event opens to the public tonight.
Night in Bethlehem will take place from 6:30 to 9 p.m. tonight through Tuesday at the church’s Living Water Park on the corner of Grundy and Washington streets in downtown Tullahoma.
This is the 18th year for the event and, according to minister of music and worship the Rev. Christian Watts, it has become a holiday tradition for the church and the community.
“As hard as it is to believe, this event has been going on for 18 years, which means there are actually young people in our church and the community who can never remember a time when this wasn’t going on,” said Watts. “We are thrilled that it continues to grow and has become such a tradition for so many.”
Watts added that the event began with former minister of music the Rev. David Watts, who is also Watts’ father.
“I never thought I would be taking his place and also taking over coordinating the event, but all has worked out well and I’m proud to say this is my third year coordinating the event,” he said.
Visitors are invited to walk the streets of Bethlehem during the time of Jesus’ birth. Featured are shepherds keeping watch over their flocks in the field, vendors selling their wares in the Bethlehem marketplace, and the Nativity. Live music will also be featured nightly.
For the nativity scene and the city, Watts said that the church works to make sure that each detail is as authentic as possible.
“We want to make the experience as real as possible,” he said. “Hundreds help to coordinate, plan and donate time, and so much more each year. We are always working to make things as authentic, efficient and aesthetically pleasing as possible.”
Watts also pointed out that there is something for everyone to enjoy.
“We have activities going on inside and outside of the church,” he said. “Folks can enjoy the nativity scene outside and also enjoy the sounds of our brass ensemble and choir who will perform three times each night, singing and playing Christmas carols. Then they can head inside and enjoy the Dorell Family who are a hit every year with the crowd.
“We will also have live music in the chapel where there will be a different act each night, such as the children’s choir and Lisa Mauer. This will include the Crosspointe String Band, who are new to the event this year and we are very excited to have. We also remind attendees to check out the shepherds on the grassy area next to the church who will be tending their sheep. The whole walk is lit with luminaries to best guide guests through their experience.”
The event is free to the public. Refreshments, including hot cocoa, cider and Christmas cookies, are available in the hospitality tent. Free tickets are available for persons to use as invitations for family and friends. Stop by the welcome center or the music and worship ministries office for free tickets.
The church is located on 108 E. Grundy St. in Tullahoma.
The following churches have scheduled Christmas Eve and Christmas Day services.
First United Methodist Church: Candlelight and communion services will be held on Wednesday. A First Light service will be held at 10 a.m. in the Family Activity Center. An evening service will be held at 6 p.m. and 10:30 p.m. in the Family Activity Center. The church is located at 208 West Lauderdale Street in Tullahoma.
Kings Cross Church: Christmas Eve service is set for 6 p.m. Wednesday. The church is located at 222 Turkey Creek Rd. in Tullahoma.
First Baptist Church: A Christmas Eve service will be held at 6 p.m. Wednesday at the church, located at 108 East Grundy Street in Tullahoma,
First Christian Church: The church’s Choir Christmas Cantata will be held today at 11 a.m. An early service will be held at 8:30 a.m. with special Lessons and Carols worship. Christmas Eve will feature two services: a family oriented worship at 5 p.m. and a traditional candlelight service at 11 p.m. The church is located at 120 W. Grundy Street in Tullahoma.
St. Paul the Apostle Catholic Church: will hold Christmas Eve Service at 6 p.m. on Wednesday and Christmas Day service at 8 a.m. Thursday. The church is located at 306 W. Grizzard Street in Tullahoma.
St .Mark Catholic Church: Will hold Christmas Eve Service at 6 p.m. on Wednesday and Christmas Day service at 8 a.m. on Thursday. The church is located at 2941 McMinnville Highway in Manchester.
Grace Baptist Church: Christmas Eve, carols and candles will be held at 6 p.m. on Wednesday at the church, located at 1901 Ovoca Rd. in Tullahoma.
Faith Lutheran Church: at 6 p.m. today the church will hold its annual children’s Christmas worship service, followed by the traditional “birthday party for Jesus” in the fellowship hall. The church will hold two candlelight worship services at 6 and 8 p.m. Wednesday. The church is located at 101 Bragg Circle in Tullahoma.
St. Barnabas’ Episcopal Church: Christmas services are as follows: 4:30 p.m. Dec. 24, Children’s Service; 10:30 p.m. Dec. 24, Music of the Season; 11 p.m. Dec. 24, Midnight Mass; 10 a.m. Dec 25, Christmas Day Service.
Wesley Heights Methodist Church: On Sunday, Dec. 19, 10:50 a.m. an adult choir will present a Christmas musical. There will also be a special children’s Christmas program. On Wednesday at 10 p.m., a Christmas Eve worship with special music and a candlelight communion service will be held. The church is located at 2101 E. Lincoln St. in Tullahoma.
Trinity Lutheran Church: will hold Christmas Eve services at 7 and 10 p.m. Wednesday. On Dec. 28, a Moravian love feast will be held at 8:30 and 10:45 a.m. On Jan. 4, a de-greening and lunch at noon and Epiphany party will be held from 4-8 p.m. at the home of the Rev. Alex Hoffner. Trinity Lutheran Church is located at the corner of Wilson Avenue and Cedar Lane in Tullahoma.