Conyers First United Methodist Church Publications and Events Coordinator Felicia Hodges examines the poinsettia plants in the church, set up for the Christmas Eve and Christmas Day services..
Candle flames will flicker as church-goers bow their heads Saturday night in remembrance of the Christ child born in Bethlehem.
Churches throughout Rockdale and Newton counties will host candlelight communion services as a time of reflection, praise and fellowship. Congregations open their doors wide this time of year to invite everyone to these Christmas Eve candlelight celebrations, which typically include a time of prayer, singing and a short message.
Calvary Baptist Church at 120 Crowell Road in Conyers will have its candlelight communion service at 7 p.m.
"Everyone is invited," Calvary Pastor Tim Walden said. "We'll have singing, prayer and communion ... There will be some congregational songs and special music too. We will have a time for those to remember loved ones they have lost."
The pastor will also deliver a message and everyone is invited to stay for the light refreshments to be served after the service.
"I think we've gotten so far away from what Christmas is all about," Walden said.
"It's about the Lord and family and people being together. It's not about material things. You can't put a price on friendship. We get together in the love of God and that breaks it down to what it's all about."
Calvary Baptist Church will not have a Dec. 25 service. The Christmas Eve service is expected to be about an hour and a half in length, the pastor said.
The pastor said he wants everyone to feel welcome to come to the service Christmas Eve.
"We're not the biggest or the fanciest church, but we have a loving church," he said. "We have guitars, a piano, that type of music. We have more Southern gospel and country gospel type of music. Our congregation (has people from) many faiths, blacks and whites. We're open to 'whoever will.'"
Walden, who founded the independent Baptist church a decade ago, said the congregation numbers around 100 people.
Those members have been especially busy during the holidays, having fed five needy families for Thanksgiving and providing Christmas gifts and food for five families this Christmas. In addition, the church is opening a food bank and a clothes closet.
"We've always had a Christmas Eve and a New Year's Eve service," Walden said. "(At the New Year's Eve service) we start about 9 p.m., have several speakers, singing, prayer and then serve breakfast at midnight. We've done that for years. It usually turns out pretty good."
Conyers Presbyterian Church will have two Christmas Eve services. At 5 p.m., the church will host a family Christmas Eve service and invite all children who attend to dress as their favorite manger scene character.
"We invite the kids to be a wise boy or wise girl, an angel or a shepherd," Conyers Presbyterian Pastor Tom Sparks said. "During the service, we read the Christmas story as part of the message and the kids come up front when their character is mentioned."
At 8 p.m., the church will have its traditional candlelight communion service. Worshipers will sing traditional Christmas carols and there will be a couple of soloists providing special music. Communion will take place at the 8 p.m. service only that day.
At the end of both services, everyone attending will light their candle as they sing "Silent Night." Each service is about an hour long. An offering will be taken to benefit the Genesis Shelter for homeless children in Atlanta.
Conyers Presbyterian also invites the community to its Christmas Day worship service at 11 a.m.
For more Christmas Eve and Christmas Day services, see the Church Activities listing.
Beth Sexton is a freelance writer based in Snellville, Ga. If you have a story idea, contact Karen Rohr, features editor, at firstname.lastname@example.org.