My Christmas Eve post expressed both my joy and concern about churches use/non-use of their webpages to inform the community about their Christmas Eve services. Many did so effectively but an alarming number either ignored doing so or did so ineffectively.
For a Christmas Eve service I settled on Cornerstone Church in South Anchorage because they’ve consistently met my visit criteria of welcome, hospitality, music going beyond entertaining, and effective Bible-based teaching (see visit criteria – top right). And too, I was attracted by their Christmas website presentation. Their main webpage had an attractive Christmas banner at the top with service times prominently displayed, and then again, partway down the page, both in the line of sight. Simple, graphically correct, and effective.
I was greeted very warmly by a greeter who was similarly greeting others with smiles, handshakes, hugs and programs. She was not the only greeter. Cornerstone has four outside entrances and two sanctuary entrances. My greeter, Mary, said they were gearing up to cover them all with greeters for every service. It gave me a warm feeling to discover she remembered me from my previous visit. Obviously Cornerstone cares about giving all comers, members or not, a warm reception.[img_assist|nid=146684|title=Praise Group Starting Christmas Eve Service|desc=|link=none|align=left|width=350|height=161]
The Cornerstone praise group was playing and singing as I entered the sanctuary. The music was pleasing, joyful, and appropriate. The pastor, Brad Sutter then got up, said his remarks would be brief that night, setting the stage by talking about Top Ten Lists. He proceeded to enumerate the Top Ten Reasons to Give Thanks This Christmas drawn from the Christmas story as recounted in Matthew and Luke. Cornerstone is one of the few churches in Anchorage to offer video and audio of their messages. Click here to see video or hear audio of Sutter’s Christmas message. I believe this was an example of an effective, Bible-based message.[img_assist|nid=146685|title=Joseph, Mary and Infant Jesus Tableau|desc=|link=none|align=left|width=350|height=205]
After Sutter’s message, communion was quietly served, self-service style “…for everyone who has accepted Jesus Christ as your personal Savior.” It was an effective reminder that the Advent was just the beginning, which culminated in Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection. To me, it took the focus away from Christmas long enough to remind us what it’s really all about. No other religion offers the concept of a God loving His people enough to be willing to be sacrificed for them.
A tableau with Joseph, Mary, the infant Jesus was enacted onstage while a young girl and a woman beautifully sang I Adore You. The lights were then dimmed as candles were picked up, and flame was transferred candle to candle throughout the auditorium as Silent Night was sung. The service was concluded with all singing with the praise group, the very appropriate Chris Tomlin tune How Great Is Our God.[img_assist|nid=146686|title=Candlelight Silent Night|desc=|link=none|align=left|width=350|height=138]
I’ve been to few Christmas Eve services in my life that were as effective as this one. I thank the staff and members of Cornerstone for making my evening memorable. Even Noah, an occasional 4th grade student of mine, when I teach for ASD, spotted me and surprised me with a friendly “Hi Mr. Chris!”.