‘Old Christmas at Clay Hill’ Sunday night

Published 11:00 pm Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Old Christmas at Clay Hill brings the Christmas season to a quiet, peaceful close and the New Year to a simple, yet meaningful, beginning.

After more than two decades, Old Christmas at Clay Hill has become a tradition for the many who gather to celebrate the Three King’s arrival in Bethlehem where they presented gold, frankincense and myrrh to the Christ Child.

“On the night when Christ was born, the Three Kings or Magi – Caspar, Melchior and Balthasar – saw a bight star and followed it to Bethlehem,” said the Rev. Michael Lawler, pastor of Brundidge United Methodist Church. “It is on this night, Old Christmas night, that we pause to tell, once again, the story of our Savior’s birth and to celebrate the arrival of the Wise Men.”

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Old Christmas at Clay Hill is a lamplight service of scriptures and songs. The historic church is simply decorated with the offerings of Mother Nature – holly, ivy, cedar and pine – and the music is played on acoustic instruments.

“Old Christmas is important for a number of reasons,” Lawler said. “It allows us a time and a place to reflect on the Christmas season far away from the hurry and rush that precedes Christmas Day and to simply think of the real reason for the season. It also gives us a unique opportunity to step back in time and celebrate Christmas as our grandparents and great-grandparents did.”

“Clay Hill Church has no electricity and no heat but it has all of the warmth that must have surrounded Mary, Joseph and the Baby Jesus in that stable in Bethlehem so long ago,” Lawler said.

For Nellie Sue Helms, Old Christmas at Clay Hill is a Christmas tradition.

“I love to go to Old Christmas because it reminds me of my grandmother and granddaddy,” she said. “It is has such a close-knit, family feel. I love the singing of the Christmas songs along with the reading of the Christmas story. It is such a worshipful setting.”

Helms, laughingly, said she even likes dressing in her longjohns to go out into the chilly night.

“It’s sad the way that we have let Christmas become so commercial, so worldly,” she said. “Old Christmas extends the real reason for the season in such a meaningful way. For a short while, we can go back to the way it was when Jesus was the focus of Christmas and friends were more important than presents. That’s what Old Christmas means to me.”

Old Christmas at Clay is a non-denominational service and will be held at 5 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 6 at historic Clay Hill Church between Brundidge and Banks on Country Road 4408 (Pronto) just off Highway 93.

Dress warmly. Hot cider and teacakes will be available following the service.