At the Church of the Ascension -- 205 W. Cherokee Ave. in Cartersville -- worshippers will have several opportunities to gather Saturday. Along with a Christmas Pageant and Holy Eucharist at 5 p.m., the Episcopal church also will feature selections by the choir at 10:30 p.m. and a Candlelight Service at 11 p.m. If attendees exceed the church's capacity, they will be able to view the services in the Parish Hall, which will be furnished with extra seating and audio-visual equipment.
"There's a Christmas Pageant with the children who take on the roles of the first Christmas and try to sweep us into the activity of that first night," said the Rev. Mary Erickson, referring to the Church of the Ascension's 5 p.m. offering. "[Then at 10:30 p.m.] many people would refer to it as a midnight Mass, but we have music with our adult choir. They sing for the first 30 minutes. For a small church and a small choir, they're phenomenal.
"So they begin at 10:30 and Mass begins -- the Holy Eucharist, we also call it, begins -- at 11 o'clock," she said, adding what she enjoys most about services like these is reflecting on "... the mystery of God becoming human in Jesus Christ. It's just that mystery that draws us deeper into the greater mystery of God. The mystery of this particular event of 2,000 years ago keeps happening and that draws us into the eternal life that God gives us."
For those attending the services, Erickson hopes they will already know or be introduced to "the miracle of new life that is available to us always and eternally from God."
Along with Church of the Ascension, Cassville United Methodist Church and Tabernacle Baptist Church also will offer festive services prior to Christmas Day.
Usually featuring about 25 people at its regular Sunday service, Cassville UMC expects its Christmas Eve Candlelight Service to draw between 50 to 75 people. Located at 52 Church St. in Cassville, the church's celebration will begin on Saturday at 5:30 p.m. with cookies and cocoa in the fellowship hall, followed by the service at 6 p.m.
"We're going to [highlight] the Christmas story, [which] basically it's just the real meaning of Christmas," the Rev. Gary Eastridge said. "The church was built in the 1800s, so the neat thing that we try to do is keep [our services] kind of simple. Instead of a lot of flash, we try to keep it simple and try to stay to the roots of the church. So it's more of a laid back kind of a service. You don't have to dress up real fancy or anything like that, you just come as you are. We have people coming in overalls, you name it.
"[For our Christmas Eve service], we have a little candlelighting at the very end of it. ... [There will be some] traditional hymns. We still do some Christmas carols, like going out Christmas caroling through the neighborhood -- it's that kind of feel," he said, noting one of the most enjoyable parts of the service is seeing families worshipping together. "It's ... a coming home kind of feel. Cassville really is a big family. That really is one of the nicest things about it."
While Cassville UMC is looking forward to extending its attendance numbers on Saturday, Tabernacle Baptist in Cartersville is preparing for about 650 people to gather for its Christmas Eve service at 5 p.m.
"Our choir, [joined by our] orchestra, will be singing," said Arleen Shook, music associate for Tabernacle Baptist, 112 E. Church St. in Cartersville. "We will be doing several Christmas selections. We have probably about a 90-voice choir [that will] be singing and then [a] full orchestra. It's one of the biggest attended services of our year, believe it or not, and all of our families worship together. We ask them to bring anybody that's in town with them. ... [The service is] usually celebrative in part but then it's very reflective as well.
"We usually do it by candlelight, where it seems small and intimate even though we're a large church. It's just a real sweet time of the family of Christ being together and then our individual families being together as well. I hope that they'll forget the hustle and bustle and that they will remember what Christmas really is -- it's the celebration of the birth of Jesus -- and reflect on the reason that he came. The reason that he came was so that we could all experience his gift of love and that maybe we too could give that gift of love to other people really throughout the year instead of just on Christmas."
In addition to offering services on Saturday, the three churches also will be worshipping on Christmas -- Church of the Ascension at 10 a.m., Cassville UMC at 11 a.m. and Tabernacle Baptist at 10:45 a.m. For a more in-depth list of Christmas-related church services that will be held throughout the county, see The Daily Tribune News' Family & Living page on Thursday.