Christmastime services locally observed

Reverend: 'It sure has been fun'

As families and friends came together to make Christmas memories with gifs, food and fun activities, many churches throughout the county opened their doors on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day for a time of reflection and adoration.

For the Rev. Lyle Ball, minister of the Chase United Methodist Church and Covenant Community United Methodist Church in Baldwin, each year he's invited area residents to a special candlelight Christmas Eve service ever since he pastored the two churches.

Members of the churches and community share in a time of reading scripture telling of the birth of Jesus, and singing carols to correlate with the message.

A special offering was taken to benefit local area food pantries.

The program concludes when the lights in the sanctuary dim, and each person holds a lit candle, blending their voices to "Silent Night."

Ball announced this will be his 12th and final Christmas Eve service in Chase, and his seventh and final in Baldwin, as his time as pastor in Lake County ends in summer of 2022.

"It sure has been fun," Ball said, looking back over the years at the different Christmas Eve services.

In Ball's sermon, he touched on Christmas, the birth of Jesus, as being just the beginning.

"But if Jesus hadn't been born and carried out to the cross, then we wouldn't have the final part of the story," he said.

Fr. Matt Barnum offered Mass on Christmas Eve in Irons and Baldwin, and on Christmas Day in Luther, Irons and Baldwin.

The altar at St. Ann Catholic Church in Baldwin was prettily adorned in an abundance of red and white Poinsettias.

During the Christmas homily, Fr. Barnum said during his visits to Rome through the years, he would pray and venerate at St. Mary Major Basilica, where in a crypt is part of a manger.

"And being before that piece of the manger, I wondered to myself what it would have been like to be one of the shepherds to first peer upon the face of God, the Christ Child. Now, in theological writing and ancient prayers it is said that Christ condescending himself (coming down from Heaven), was born of the Virgin Mary in Bethlehem, which, in Hebrew, means, 'The City of Bread.'

"We hear that word, 'condescending.' Condescend has a negative connotation in our modern English, doesn't it? However, condescend in this sense is something wonderfully awesome. For condescend comes from the Latin word (condescendere) which means literally 'to climb down.'

"One who is a superior comes down to the level of inferior. Is God not infinitely superior to us in every true and real sense? And we are infinitely inferior to Him? And yet He climbs down to us because He loves us, because He desires our salvation. So, climbing down from Heaven, He was born of the Virgin in the city of Bethlehem - 'The City of Bread.'"

Fr. Barnum tied the Christmas origins of Jesus's birth in a manger, a place filled with straw for animals to eat, to the Eucharist, the partaking of communion.

"Let us come up to His manger, for which He will feed us, for which we receive with the greatest devotion on His birthday," he said.

Fr. Barnum told parishioners, as he drove from Irons to Luther to Baldwin, he was already seeing Christmas trees taken down and dragged to roadsides.

He said in liturgical observance, the season of Christmas extends for several weeks, such as the Epiphany on Jan. 2, to observe the three Magi visiting the infant Jesus, up through the baptism of Jesus as observed on Jan. 9, the final day of the Christmas season.