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Brazos Valley pastors offer hope through Christmas sermons amid pandemic

Posted at 5:05 PM, Dec 25, 2020
and last updated 2020-12-26 12:22:08-05

Though the coronavirus pandemic prevented many people from physically attending religious services, church leaders in the Brazos Valley found new ways for their holiday homilies to be delivered.

Clergy members in Aggieland and its surrounding communities weren’t quite sure what to expect this season, considering the need for social distancing and other safety precautions at their sanctuaries on Christmas Eve and morning.

Pastors such as Bryan First United Methodist’s Jennifer Webber prepared for challenges a holiday crowd could present.

“Because attendance has been lower, we’re pretty confident that we’re going to have room for everyone, and that we’re not going to have to turn anybody away," Webber said. "And, it helps that we have multiple services, so we can invite more folks to come and join us in the evening.”

Clergy have noticed the strain that pandemic restrictions have placed on congregants, especially considering those who are in quarantine and unable to worship communally.

"A big part of our faith is receiving the Eucharist, and being able to actually consume and eat of the Body and the Blood of Christ," noted Father Will Stratton, pastor of St. Mary's Catholic Center in College Station. "So this year, especially for those who are livestreaming, [they] have not been able to actually participate in the Eucharist. That part has been hard.”

Despite some challenges, these Christian leaders offered their congregations words of encouragement. Webber and Stratton centered their holiday sermons on the shared belief that God will bring people through hard times.

In Burleson County, Caldwell First United Methodist’s senior pastor Wayne Calder said that the hopeful message of Christmas seemed intangible at first this December. But, that feeling recently changed for his church.

"The Christmas program that we did two weeks ago seemed to awaken a Christmas spirit in people that I hadn’t seen," Calder said. "So our Advent season actually started the last Sunday of November, and there was just kind of a drag to it. But that program was so well done, it just engaged people on all different kinds of levels. Our organist and pianist did an incredible job. I think that really lifted people’s spirits, and it gave them something different to focus on. I think that’s part of what our need is these days, looking for that different thing to focus in on."

As Christians met in-person and digitally for holiday services this week, they were offered reminders that the God they worship persists in trying times.

"Even in the midst of the pandemic and things that are going on, God is still with us," Father Stratton stated. "He is still present, God is still in our hearts. So, [I'm] just encouraging people to have that hope, and to invite the Lord into their hearts, and to find [Him] and encounter {Him] in their homes, and in each other.”