Sunday, Dec. 22

Candlelight service in West Arlington

WEST ARLINGTON -- The Chapel on the Green, a Methodist church, will hold a candlelight service at 6 p.m. on Sunday. The church also invites anyone interested to join in singing with the choir. Arrive at 5:15 p.m. for rehearsal prior to the service. All are invited to enjoy fellowship and hot coffee or cocoa and cookies. For more information, call John Thompson at 375-6455 or Helen Whitman at 375-2775. Sunday and Christmas services

at the Federated Church

EAST ARLINGTON -- Come and celebrate the hope, peace, joy and love that arrives with the Baby Jesus at the Federated Church of East Arlington on Ice Pond Road.

On Sunday, Dec. 22 at 10 a.m. all are invited to the Christmas Pageant and service of worship which will offer a new take on the Christmas story. This year's pageant is titled, "Christmas Alphabet-Style," with lots of opportunities for those gathered to join in the singing of beloved Christmas carols. Following the service there will be a birthday party for Jesus during Coffee Hour in Bailey Hall. Bring your wrapped baby items for Jesus' Baby Shower and non-perishable food items for the Arlington Food Shelf.

On Tuesday, Dec. 24, at 5 p.m. we will welcome the birth of Jesus with a joyful service of carol singing, the telling of the Christmas story, a special children's message and words of hope offered by the Rev. Kathy Clark. The Federated Church Choir will offer special music accompanied by Mary Edwards, music director. The service will end with the passing of candle light and Mary, Joseph and Jesus taking their places among us.

The Federated Church of East Arlington is a local church in covenant with the United Church of Christ and the United Methodist Church. Its mission is "To welcome all, follow Jesus Christ together, and live God's word with compassionate service." For additional information, phone 802-375-2548, visit www.federatedchurchofeastarlington.org or like the church on Facebook.

Sunday and Christmas Eve

at Second Congregational Church

BENNINGTON -- The time is near! Come worship with Second Congregational Church, UCC, on this fourth Sunday in Advent at 10 a.m.

Those present will light the fourth Advent Candle, the candle of love, and the Chancel Choir will sing "Emmanuel, Come Soon," by David Angerman. Following a Time for the Children in All of Us and our 4th Visitor, children up through grade 5 are dismissed for Godly Play, and the middle- and high-school class meets. The Rev. Mary Lee-Clark's sermon, based on the readings from Isaiah and Matthew, is titled, "Dreams and Visions."

A time of fellowship and refreshment for the whole church family follows in Webster Hall, and Heifer Project alternative giving opportunities will still be available.

Christmas Eve services take place on Tuesday, Dec. 24. At 5 p.m. we hear and see the old, old story with new eyes and ears, through lessons, carols, candles, and choirs. Brass and bells ring out the good news. Nursery care is available. A time to gather with old friends and new follows in Webster Hall, with hot cider. At 10 p.m., a quieter service of candlelight, poetry, lessons, and carols takes place, along with the service of Holy Communion. All are welcome. At both services, a freewill offering for the Greater Bennington Interfaith Food and Fuel Fund will be received.

Second Congregational Church, United Church of Christ, welcomes all people of faith or in search of faith, without regard to age, race, sex, economic condition, disability, or sexual orientation. Its building on Hillside Street is wheelchair-accessible, and hearing-assistance devices are available. For more information, call the church office at 442-2559 or visit www.bennscc.org.

Sunday and Christmas at St. Peter's

BENNINGTON --The Rev. Justin Lanier will preside as St. Peter's Episcopal Church celebrates the Holy Eucharist using the Book of Common Prayer on this fourth Sunday of Advent. The 8 a.m. Holy Eucharist is celebrated at the high altar without music in the traditional language of Rite I.  At 10 a.m. the Holy Eucharist will be celebrated with singing and music at the free-standing altar using Rite II, the contemporary language service. The Gospel for this day is Matthew 1:18-25. The laying on of hands for healing follows the service.

Contemplative prayer will not be held on Wednesday, Dec. 25. On Thursday, Dec. 26, Lanier will celebrate the Holy Eucharist at 10 a.m. All are welcome.

Christmas Eve, Dec. 24, the Christmas Pageant and Holy Eucharist is scheduled for 5 p.m. Children are invited to participate in this unrehearsed story of the Nativity. Notify Lanier if you or anyone you know are interested in participating or assisting with the direction of the program. Holy Eucharist will also be celebrated at 11 p.m. On Christmas Day, Dec. 25, the Holy Eucharist will be celebrated at 9 a.m. Lanier will also celebrate the Holy Eucharist at Emeritus at Fillmore Pond. The Christmas liturgy will begin at 3 p.m.

On Jan. 12, at the Feast of the Baptism of our Lord, the church will have one Eucharistic service with a baptism at 9 a.m.

Note that the annual meeting will be held on Sunday, Jan. 26. There will be two services at 8 a.m. and 10 a.m., with the annual meeting following the 10 a.m. service.

St. Peter's invites people of all faiths or those in search of faith to join them in their service of Christ and of each other. The facility is wheelchair accessible. For more information, visit www.stpetersvt.org or call 802-442-2911.

Worship in North Bennington

NORTH BENNINGTON -- The North Bennington Congregational Church welcomes all to its 11 a.m. worship service led by the Rev. Penny Rich Smith on this fourth Sunday of Advent. The sermon, "Birthing a Promise," will be based on Isaiah 7:10-16 and Matthew 1:18-25. We will light the fourth Advent Candle. There will be a children's time, after which Sunday School classes will meet for pre-school through grade 8.

Following the service, everyone is invited to stay for coffee hour and a time of fellowship. The church is located at 8 Bank St. in North Bennington and is wheelchair acessible from the back door at the parsonage driveway. For more information, call the church office at 442-5161.

Christmas Eve and Day

Bennington, North Bennington services

BENNINGTON -- At Sacred Heart St. Francis de Sales in Bennington, the Rev. Bob Wiseman, CSC will celebrate Christmas Masses Tuesday, Dec, 24 at 4 p.m. with traditional music with the pipe organ, 8 p.m. with the Contemporary Ensemble and midnight with the Church Choir. On Christmas Day, Mass will be offered at 9 a.m. with traditional music with the pipe organ.

At St. John the Baptist in North Bennington, the Rev. Bill Kelley, CSC will celebrate Christmas Mass on Tuesday, December 24, at 4 p.m. with the Gospel Group and Choir. On Christmas Day, Mass will be at 10 a.m. with the Church Choir.

Christmas Eve at Unitarian Universalist Fellowship

The Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Bennington at 108 School St. invites the community to share in its first annual Christmas Eve service on Tuesday, Dec. 24 at 5 p.m. with The Rev. Lucy Ijams officiating. Carols and readings will reflect the theme "Each Night a Child is Born is a Holy Night". The service will end with the singing of "Silent Night" as individual candles are lit.

Christmas Eve Candlelight Service

in North Bennington

NORTH BENNINGTON -- The North Bennington Congregational Church celebrates Christmas Eve with a Candlelight Service at 5 p.m. that evening. Dec. 24. There will be lessons and carols, special music, the lighting of the Christ Candle, a Christmas story, and a closing candlelight circle with the singing of "Silent Night." All are welcome. The church is wheelchair accessible.

Christmas Eve service

at Missionary Alliance Church

BENNINGTON -- Missionary Alliance Church on Crescent Boulevard will celebrate Christmas Eve on Tuesday, Dec. 24, at 7 p.m. with a candlelight service. A Christmas message and carols will emphasize the true meaning of Christmas: the birth of Jesus Christ. For more information, contact the church at 802-442-6840.

Christmas Eve at Old First Church

OLD BENNINGTON -- On Monday, Dec. 24, the First Congregational Church of Old Bennington will offer a candlelight Christmas Eve service at 5 p.m. with special music beginning at 4:40. This family service will be filled with familiar carols and readings and will feature Bennington's own Katie Beck as the vocal soloist, the Old First Choir and Gallery Chamber Orchestra. The service concludes with the congregation singing "Silent Night" with lighted candles in front of the church. A wheelchair ramp will be provided. The public is warmly invited.

Christmas Eve at First Baptist

BENNINGTON -- The First Baptist Church of Benningtonwill hold its Christmas Eve service on Wednesday, Dec. 24, at 7 p.m.

The service will feature familiar Christmas carols and Scripture readings accompanying the church's gradual lighting of the Advent candles and preparation to light the Christ candle at the service's culmination. The church's interim minister, the Rev. Thomas Hiltsley, will preside over the service.

Accompanying the service music will be Mo Rancourt, guest trumpeter, and Charles Olegar, the church's organist and director of music.

The First Baptist Church is an American Baptist congregation and gathers weekly for worship at 9:30 a.m. Sunday mornings. For more information, visit www.fbcbennington.org or call 802-442-2105.

Christmas Eve services in Williamstown

WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. --All are welcome at 5 p.m. in celebrating the birth of hope, peace, and love in our world. All are welcome for a traditional worship service of lessons and carols at First Congregational Church, 906 Main St., an Open and Affirming and Just Peace Church. Call: 413-458-4273.

Upcoming

Christmas Carol Sing

WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. -- The 1753 House on Field Park in Williamstown will once again host a free Christmas Carol Sing on Monday, Dec. 23 at 7 p.m.

Deborah Burns, Gail M. Burns, and others will lead the caroling. Carol books are provided, the Williams Inn sends over hot mulled cider, and a roaring blaze will fill the fireplace handsomely crafted by Bart van Luling. Parking is available at the Inn and the Library. There is no heat or electricity in the ‘53 House, so dress warmly and bring a candle to see by.

Annual community-wide Messiah Sing-along

ARLINGTON -- The community is invited to join in the 10th annual-community wide "Messiah Sing-Along" will be held on Sunday, Dec. 29, at 3 p.m. at St. James Episcopal Church in Arlington. This year's event is once again under the direction of Scott Smedinghoff.

Singers of all levels and abilities are invited to participate in the informal sing-along which will include the Advent and Christmas section of Handel's choral masterpiece, as well as the Hallelujah Chorus. There will be several soloists including Robyn Madison, soprano; Katie Beck as alto; the Rev. Scott Neal as tenor and Mark Madison as bass. The chorus/audience will be accompanied by Charles Olegar on the organ, and a chamber orchestra comprised of talented local musicians. Bring your voice, enthusiasm and holiday spirit as we usher in the New Year with this popular event. A limited number of copies of the score will be available to singers, and those who have their own copy are encouraged to bring it. St. James is located on Route 7A in Arlington. Call: 802-375-9952.

Worship in North Bennington

NORTH BENNINGTON -- The North Bennington Congregational Church welcomes all to its 11 a.m. worship service led by the Rev. Penny Rich Smith on this first Sunday after Christmas, Sunday, Dec. 29. It will be an informal service with the sharing of stories, reflections and poems and the ringing of bells with our carols. No Sunday School will be held this day.

Following the service, everyone is invited to stay for coffee hour and a time of fellowship. The church is located at 8 Bank St. and is wheelchair accessible from the backdoor at the parsonage driveway. For more information, call the church office at 442-5161.

Announcements

Seeking volunteer servers for Congregation Beth El community dinner

BENNINGTON -- During this chilly stretch of winter, the need for a warm meal for those who are facing huger is particularly strong. Congregation Beth El is seeking volunteers to help set up, serve, clean up and/or bring salad, drinks and dessert for the next community dinner on Monday, Dec. 30, from 4 to 6 p.m.

If you are able to participate in the mitzvah (commandment) of feeding the hungry during a season of heightened need, contact Office Administrator Rebekah Van Buren at office@cbevermont.org or 802-442-9645.

Miniature Nativity scenes at St. James

ARLINGTON -- St. James' Episcopal Church has announced the 2013 exhibition of "Los Nacimientos," a display of more than 50 Nativity scenes reflecting the art and culture of Mexico, Brazil, Spain, Peru, Ecuador, Canada (Inuit and Anglo), England, Italy, China, Portugal, Germany, Poland, the United States and even the Vatican. The Nativities are made from papier maché, ceramic, straw, bamboo, stained glass and many other interesting materials. This is the only exhibition of its kind in Bennington County. Everyone is invited to visit and enjoy this exhibition.

The objects on exhibit are drawn from the private collection of a parishioner, Roger Cooper. The Spanish word "nacimiento" means "the birth place" or a nativity scene. In Cooper's country of birth, Mexico, a nacimiento takes precedence over the Christmas tree and becomes the centerpiece of the home during the Christmas season. As Cooper traveled the world for his work, this Christmas tradition stayed with him. He began collecting examples of Nativity scenes on his trips. Over the course of more than 30 years, he accumulated more than 150 different examples of the genre.

Throughout the centuries, artists have created Nativity sets in materials and with figures that reflect their own cultures and times. Scenes of the Nativity are known from the very earliest Christian times. They appear in third and fourth century Christian catacombs of Rome as wall paintings and on sarcophagi. It was not until 1223, however, when St. Francis of Assisi organized a Nativity using live animals in Greccio, Italy, that the understanding and appreciation of that special scene took root and grew. The custom of making Nativity scenes spread from Italy to France and to Spain, and then to other parts of the world, following the spread of Christianity through exploration and colonization. The custom arrived in the New World with the conquistadores and the friars in the 16th century.

Each of the Nativity scenes on exhibit at St. James reflects the ethnicity of the culture that produced it. Included are examples from Mexico, Spain, Peru, Ecuador, Colombia, Canada, Israel, Germany, Poland, Russia and the United States, including two examples from Vermont. Nativities are made from wood, papier maché, ceramic, straw, bamboo, stained glass and many other interesting materials. One of the most unusual scenes is made of tongue depressors and clothespins.

The detail in each miniature scene is extraordinary.

St. James' Episcopal Church is grateful to Roger Cooper for sharing his beautiful and interesting collection with us and reminding us of the variety of artistic endeavor that celebrates the miracle of the birth of Jesus.

During the Christmas season, St. James' Church is decorated beautifully with the traditional greens and blooms of the holiday. On the sill of each of the tall stained glass windows is a lighted exhibit case containing a selection of the miniature scenes. "Los Nacimientos" are available for public viewing during the Christmas season as follows: Sundays - before and after the 8 a.m. and 10 a.m. worship services.