When I was a child, Christmas Eve was the day that the German churches were packed. People did not pay that much attention to the fire codes as they do now, and over 400+ people would do their best to squish into a church that normally had the capacity of 250. It was where you reunited with a lot of people that you might not have seen over a year.
There might be a nativity play with Mary, Joseph and Baby Jesus. There would definitely be traditional German Christmas Carols. Children of all ages would be recruited to play piano, violin, flute or sing a solo. Reciting a traditional German Christmas Poem was mandatory. Children would get really excited as they knew that they would be able to open their Christmas presents as soon as they arrived home. The church would start the gift giving by presenting each child, even babies, with a loot bag that contained German gingerbread cookies, a mandarin orange and German chocolates as they walked, no ran, outside as best as they could in the crowded foyer after the service was over.
When me and my siblings had children around 20+ years ago, we decided to not go to church on Christmas Eve, as they needed a nap, they were too tired, it interfered with the dinner hour and other reasons of convenience. So we would just gather at “Oma and Opa’s House” around 4 pm on Christmas Eve, eat an early dinner of cabbage rolls, mashed potatoes and sauerkraut and then sing Christmas carols in English and German before opening any presents. It was nice, too, but for years I was feeling a nostalgia for a German Church service on Christmas Eve, just “like the ones I used to know.”
So when we learned that St. Mark’s Church had opened up a new service on Christmas Eve, we (myself and my two daughters) decided to attend. We were also glad when someone from the church contacted us and asked the girls to do a reading. This took me back at least 30+ years! There was a huge wave of nostalgia, upon arriving at the church. It wasn’t exactly the same, since we are in the midst of COVID, but the ingredients were there.
The newly organized 2 pm service was created especially for families with children and was mostly run by the new Pastor Ingrid Doerschel, with the help of children. When we arrived, the church was pretty much empty, but that was ok. One boy who had also offered to do a reading, as well as star in a short play fell ill, and so my daughter jumped in at the last minute and read his reading, as well as her own, while also playing the role of “Simona” in a play about a sheep that got lost and was finally found in Bethlehem right at the feet of the Baby Jesus who was lying in his manger. There were around 45 people registered, but only 25 or so made it, due to issues of illness or snow/ice.
German songs included Kommet Ihr Hirten and Stille Nacht. The Organist was Dubravko Pajalic. English songs included O Little town of Bethlehem, Angels we have heard on High and Joy to the World. The readings included texts from the Gospel of Luke, while the traditional Christmas Story was read and enjoyed. It really reminded me of my childhood and was exactly what I was looking for.
In the New Year of 2022, all the services had to be shut down thanks to Omicron, so I am extra glad that I went and could enjoy an in-person service in such safe conditions.
Hier ist der Link zum Livestream, den Sie auch von unserer Webseite aus abrufen können: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCtVdbzKdn54rhEXCAjzLxfQ/live.
Dort findet man unmittelbar nach Aufnahme auch die ungeschnittenen Versionen der Gottesdienste (man muss vorspulen, um den Anfang des Gottesdienstes zu finden).
Alle fertig bearbeiteten Gottesdienste sind im Youtube-Kanal der Kirche gespeichert (Link: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCixYSN_zG4aMev_FbCNGVqg/videos ).