First Congregational Church invites visitors to celebrate the advent season at several holiday events beginning this Sunday, December 8, at 10 a.m. with a special program of Christmas music from around the world performed by the Festival Chorus and guest soloists.  The selection of cheerful and contemplative songs from seven different countries includes familiar favorites like the Ukrainian “Carol of the Bells “ as well as new discoveries.

The annual Alternative Gift Market will take place immediately following the service.  Make a donation to any of several charities on someone’s behalf and receive a gift card to send the recipient.  Among the non-profits benefitting are Bridges Outreach, Doctors Without Borders, the Elizabeth Coalition to House the Homeless and Heifer International. 

Also this weekend, the monthly “First Saturday” service on December 7 at 5:30 p.m. is an informal worship alternative that offers a holiday respite for time-pressured families and individuals.

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Musical offerings continue with the annual Mid-Day Musicales concert program on Wednesdays at 12 noon.   Upcoming performances include the Kaiser Woodwind Quintet on December 11 and soprano Maureen Francis accompanied by organist Barbara Thomson on December 18.   There is a $5 suggested donation.  

This year’s Advent adult studies series features daytime and evening programs focusing on the theme of nativity.   “Advent on Film: The Nativity Story” presents a screening and discussion of this film, considered by biblical scholars and clergy to be the most accurate and authentic movie made about the birth of Jesus.  The movie will be shown in two parts on Monday evenings, December 9 and 16, at 7:30 pm in the church’s Coe Fellowship room. 

On Tuesdays, December 10 and 17, from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., “Held in God’s Grace” will offer an opportunity to relax and reflect on the Advent promise of hope and waiting.  Participants are invited to bring a lunch; beverages and dessert will be provided. 

Christmas Eve services will begin on Tuesday, December 24, at 5 p.m. with the annual children’s pageant.  This year’s original production is based on the book, “Little Star.”  At 10 p.m., there will be a traditional candlelight service of scripture, song and story.

Christmas morning will be celebrated on December 25 with a 10 a.m. worship service.  A family-style worship celebration on Sunday, December 29, at 10 a.m. will feature scripture readings and an old-fashioned Carol Sing.