BY RUTH RICE
Some of the Christmas messages at area churches will focus on light, God’s whisper, the manger and finding Bethlehem in your heart.
“Jesus – the True Light of Christmas” is the theme for a series of Advent messages at Oakland United Methodist Church, 1504 Bedford St., Johnstown.
Each week, the church’s pastor, the Rev. Randy Bain, focused on a different Scripture to reveal a new light, leading up to Christmas Eve, when he will present “The True Light.”
Bain started with “The Ancient Light” to the people in darkness on Dec. 1, “The Great Light” to the shepherds on Dec. 8 and “The Guiding Light” to the wise men on Dec. 15.
He will conclude with “The Quiet Light” to Simeon and Anna today and “The Eternal Light” of the lamb on Dec. 29.
“There are five or six biblical narratives that relate to Christmas, and every year for Advent I try to figure out how to package it,” Bain said.
“It’s another way to look at the traditional in a creative and contemporary way.”
He is taking the light theme from ancient prophecy to the lamb of God, hoping to build the kingdom of God one soul at a time by issuing individual invitations and altar calls.
“The Word Became a Whisper” will be the Christmas message at Mount Calvary Lutheran Church, 1000 Scalp Ave., Richland Township.
The message is based on the Scripture in John 1, which states “The Word became flesh,” said the Rev. Scott Custead.
“We’re living in a noisy world, and in the midst of the noise, the loudest sound is a whisper,” Custead said.
“God could have shouted the Christmas proclamation and made a big splash, but he whispered quietly in the back streets.”
Custead added that today God still whispers, but can we hear his whisper?
He said the last sentences of his message will be “The word of God became a whisper. He desires nothing more than to dwell in the deepest and quietest place in your heart.”
“Laid in a Manger?” will be the meditation by Pastor Norma Prina Murphy at Westmont Presbyterian Church, 601 Luzerne St.
“I will be preaching on the text from Luke 2:1-20, focusing mainly on Verse 7,” Murphy said.
This Scripture tells the story of the birth of Jesus, and this verse states “And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger because there was no room for them in the inn.”
The Christmas message by the Most Rev. Mark Leonard Bartchak, bishop of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Altoona-Johnstown, focuses on the question, “Where Is Your Bethlehem?”
He said the question means “Where is Jesus Christ born into your life?
While reading a reflection about the travel involved in the first Christmas by author Marilyn Ehle, Bartchak started thinking about GPS technology.
“In a straight line, it is a little more than 100 kilometers from Nazareth to Bethlehem, but given the countless hills, valleys and rivers, there was no straight line,” Bartchak said.
“And there was no GPS and no modern highway when Mary and Joseph made that journey. Many of us have had to make unexpected journeys under circumstances that we would prefer not to experience.”
There have been many times Bartchak has stopped to ask directions, and over the years, he has met countless people who asked him for direction when it felt like God was far away.
“In those personal moments, the Lord Jesus Christ has been born again into their lives and into mine through our encounter,” Bartchak said.
“So where is your Bethlehem as we celebrate Christmas this year? The gospel of Jesus Christ, his sacraments and his church remain the components of the most enduring and reliable GPS that anyone could imagine.
“We are all on a journey of faith. We are all invited by the Lord Jesus Christ to build his kingdom on earth with living stones. Those living stones come in all ages, sizes and shapes. We are to profess the faith we have in Christ by sharing with others that he is the way, the truth and the life.”
Ruth Rice covers Features for The Tribune-Democrat. Follow her on Twitter at Twitter.com/RuthRiceTD.
The following churches will celebrate Christmas Eve and Christmas Day services:
St. Matthew’s Anglican Church, 334 Southmont Blvd., Johnstown, 10:45 p.m. Tuesday.
First Baptist Church, Second Street, Nanty Glo, 6 p.m. Tuesday.
Arbutus Church of the Brethren, 1201 Erickson Drive, Johnstown, 6:30 p.m. Tuesday.
Johnstown Grace Brethren Church, 535 Napoleon St., 6 p.m. Tuesday.
Maple Spring Church of the Brethern, 106 Spring Road, Hollsopple, 10 p.m. Tuesday.
Moxham Church of the Brethren, 536 Grove Ave., Johnstown, 7:30 p.m. Tuesday.
Roxbury Church of the Brethren, 112 Sell St., Johnstown, 7 p.m. Tuesday.
Tire Hill Church of the Brethren, 665 Tire Hill Road, 7 p.m. Tuesday.
Walnut Grove Church of the Brethren, 1068 Bedford St., Johnstown, 6:30 p.m. Tuesday.
Westmont Church of the Brethren, 2301 Sunshine Ave., Johnstown, 7 p.m. Tuesday.
Community Open Door Church, Menoher Boulevard and Luzerne Street, Johnstown, 7 p.m. Tuesday.
Davidsville Community Church, 197 Pender Road, Johnstown, 7 p.m. Tuesday.
Cornerstone Worship Center, 500 Lenz Road, Indiana, 6:30 p.m. Tuesday.
Grace Church of Ebensburg, 223 N. West St., 6 p.m. Tuesday.
Greater Johnstown Christian Fellowship, 3429 Elton Road, Johnstown, 5 and 7 p.m. Tuesday.
Light House Morning Star Ministries, Route 240, Cherry Tree, 7 p.m. Tuesday.
First Lutheran Church, 415 Vine St., Johnstown, 7 and 10 p.m. Tuesday.
Good Shepherd Lutheran Church, 514 Shady Lane, Windber, 7 p.m. Tuesday.
Graef Evangelical Lutheran Church, 2 Second St., Cairnbrook, 7:30 p.m. Tuesday and 10 a.m. Wednesday.
Holy Trinity Lutheran Church, 525 Main St., Berlin, 7 p.m. Tuesday.
Laurel Trinity Lutheran Church, 7520 Somerset Pike, Jennerstown, 7 and 10 p.m. Tuesday.
Mount Calvary Lutheran Church, 1000 Scalp Ave., Johnstown, 6 and 10 p.m. Tuesday.
Trinity Evangelical Lutheran Church, 600 Ash St., Johnstown, 7 and 10:30 p.m. Tuesday.
Zion Lutheran Church, 613 Locust St., Johnstown, 7:30 and 10:30 p.m. Tuesday and 9 a.m. Wednesday.
St. John the Baptist Orthodox Church, 427 First St., Conemaugh, 7:30 p.m. Tuesday and 9:30 a.m. Wednesday.
Bethany Presbyterian Church, 228 Blaine St., Johnstown, 7 p.m. Tuesday.
First Presbyterian Church, 309 Lincoln St., Johnstown, 8:30 p.m. Tuesday.
First Presbyterian Church, 1101 Somerset Ave., Windber, 7 p.m. Tuesday.
Second Presbyterian Church, 565 Park Ave., Johnstown, 6 p.m. Tuesday.
Trinity Presbyterian Church, 268 Hostetler Road, Johnstown, 7 p.m. Tuesday.
St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Roman Catholic Church, 605 Graham Ave., Windber, 4, 7 and 10 p.m. Tuesday and 10 a.m. Wednesday.
St. John Gualbert Cathedral, 117 Clinton St., Johnstown, 5 p.m. and midnight Tuesday and 8 and 11 a.m. Wednesday.
Bethel United Methodist Church, 1021 Forest Hills Drive, Salix, 7 and 11 p.m. Tuesday.
Bethel United Methodist Church, 215 Whistler St., Hollsopple, 8 p.m. Tuesday.
Centennial United Methodist Church, 426 North Fork Road, Johnstown, 8 p.m. Tuesday.
Christ United Methodist Church, 200 Ohio St., Johns-town, 6:15 p.m. Tuesday.
Ferndale United Methodist Church, 221 Atlee St., Johns-town, 7:30 p.m. Tuesday.
First United Methodist Church, 436 Vine St., Johns-town, 7 p.m. Tuesday.
First United Methodist Church, 500 Maple St., South Fork, 7 and 11 p.m. Tuesday.
Mount Hope United Methodist Church, 258 Mount Hope Road, South Fork, 7 and 10 p.m. Tuesday.
Park Avenue United Methodist Church, 700 Park Avenue, Johnstown, 7:30 p.m. Tuesday.
Roxbury St. Paul’s United Methodist Church, 160 Derby St., Johnstown, 3 and 7 p.m. Tuesday.
Scalp Level Trinity United Methodist Church, 751 Horn Road, Windber, 7 p.m. Tuesday.
Trinity United Methodist Church, 111 Willow St., Johns-town, 7 p.m. Tuesday.
Trinity United Methodist Church, 817 Caldwell Ave., Portage, 7 p.m. Tuesday.
Zion United Methodist Church, Mount Airy Drive, Elton, 10:30 a.m. Tuesday.