CC VG First Christian meal

Some 52 members of First Christian Church in Villa Grove got into the holiday spirit early the weekend of Nov. 16-17, 2019, preparing meals for those less fortunate.

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With children now counting down the days till Santa comes chugging down the chimney, here are just a few of the hundreds of highlights involving area churches over the holidays.

10 OUT OF 10: The rating Pastor Randy Robinson is sure concert-goers will give what’s become a Sunday-before-Christmas tradition at St. James United Methodist. The Danville dentist, who fronts the band Doc Ashton and the Root Canals, recruits some of the region’s finest jazz musicians and puts on back-to-back big band shows in the church sanctuary, set this year for 3:30 and 6:30 p.m. on Dec. 22.

9 HOURS, 19 MINUTES of sunlight on the year’s darkest day — the Dec. 21 winter solstice. Both Catlin United Methodist and Mahomet’s New Beginnings Lutheran will hold Blue Christmas services that night to help “those who aren’t feeling very joyous during the holidays,” UMC Pastor Zach LeCrone says.

8 STRAIGHT YEARS that Stone Creek Church’s ‘Big Give’ will feed at least 1,000 families. The Urbana church, in conjunction with partners Meijer and the UI Office of Volunteer Programs, is taking Saturday’s event to another level, with plans to give away 1,600 turkeys — 300 or so more than a year ago.

7 DAYS until Black Friday, a reminder for anyone looking to get a deal on an ugly sweater — the preferred garment at Pilgrim Missionary Baptist’s special Dec. 22 service.

6 MOUTHS fed per bag times 2,688 bags packed in under two hours by 52 Villa Grove First Christian volunteers equals 16,128 people helped during last weekend’s International Disaster Emergency Service event.

5 TYPES OF ANIMALS you might see — camels, goats, sheep, donkeys and miniature horses — at four live nativities coming up next month. First up, on Dec. 1: Urbana’s Trinity Lutheran and Muncie Baptist (both 5-8 p.m.). On Dec. 8: Champaign’s Good Shepherd Lutheran (3-6 p.m.) and Tuscola’s Immanuel Lutheran (4:30-6:30 p.m.).

4 LUTHERAN CONGREGATIONS who’ll mix songs and suds (both the alcoholic and non-alcoholic varieties) at the second annual ‘Hops and Hymns, Holiday Edition’ outing at Riggs Beer Company.

TURKEY BOWL 3, the appetizer of Berean Covenant Church’s Thanksgiving Day itinerary. It starts with 9 a.m. football at Centennial, followed two hours later by a Feed the Homeless dinner at the Market Street Salvation Army, where Pastor Willie Comer hopes to feed 200.

2ND ANNIVERSARY of Champaign New Horizon UMC’s fastest-growing ministry — “Celebrate Recovery” — which on Dec. 5 should draw 60 to 100 people for a meal, worship, testimony and small group discussions, as it has every Thursday in the past year.

1, AND ONLY 1, American-born bishop that the Pope himself has deemed worthy of a beatification ceremony, the step in the sainthood process prior to canonization. It will happen Dec. 21 at the same Peoria cathedral where miracle worker and Emmy-winning ‘Catholic Hour’ radio host Fulton Sheen was ordained a Catholic priest 100 years ago. More on this story in a Clergy Corner to come.