Christmas Eve special reflects meaning of Jesus' birth


By Linda Bloom
United Methodist News Service

NEW YORK -Music and reflections about the meaning of the birth of Jesus Christ are highlights of a Christmas Eve television special from the National Council of Churches.

"Voices of Christmas," which will air at 10:35 p.m. CST on Christmas Eve on the CBS television network (check local listings), also celebrates 100 years of Christian ecumenism in the United States by spotlighting some of the NCC’s 35 member denominations, including The United Methodist Church.

The Rev. Michael Kinnamon, the NCC’s top executive and program host, declares that Jesus is more than just a child in a manager. "He is also the one who gives us hope for the future, calls us to care for the weak and the outcast, asks us to speak truth to power when it veers out of control, and gives us a creation that requires delicate care and evokes our wonder."

As an example of God’s concern for the world, Jesus still offers both challenges and reassurance to Christians today. "We don’t agree on everything, but we do agree that God has come to be with us and to be involved in the most difficult issues of our time," Kinnamon says. "That is one of the clear messages of every Christmas."

United Methodist Bishop Sharon Zimmerman Rader is one of the speakers during the program. A music segment features the Christmas Eve choir at First United Methodist Church in Dallas.

First Church describes itself as being "located in the heart of the Arts District, the country’s largest urban cultural district" with its own "dynamic program of Christian music, theatre, dance and original art."

It’s an apt description for the 3,000-member congregation, which employs a nine-member music and arts staff and supports three adult choirs and three adult handbell choirs; a youth choir and two youth handbell choirs; and three children’s choirs and two children’s handbell choirs.

"We are very much all about music and the arts here," said Sherrye Bass, director of member services at First Church.

This year, First Church staged a production of "Amahl and the Night Visitors" by Gian Carlo Menotti the weekend of Dec. 6-7. Christmas Eve services include a 5 p.m. family worship and the 11 p.m. candlelight worship featuring the Christmas Eve choir, directed by Dana Effler.

The church's chancel choir, which sings every Sunday, is expanded on Christmas Eve to include other church members, along with those who have moved away or are on break from college. In some cases, performing in the Christmas Eve choir has become a family tradition, Bass said.

The NCC has cooperated on another Christmas-related television program and a program about addiction through the Interfaith Broadcasting Commission. "Christmas at Cadillac Jack’s" is a one-hour drama starring Joseph Campanella, Ruta Lee and Patty Cabrera that will air on NBC television affiliates on Christmas Day. "Finding Hope in Recovery: Families Living with Addiction" will premiere Jan. 4 on ABC television affiliates. Check local listings for times.

Members of the Interfaith Broadcasting Commission are the U. S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, the National Council of Churches, the Islamic Society of North America, the New York Board of Rabbis and the Union for Reform Judaism.