In The News

Christmas Eve marked by worship, celebration

December 25, 2010

By Kurtis Alexander

APTOS — Toby Hope-O’Brien arrived early for Christmas Eve service at Twin Lakes Church.

Not only was she tasked with handing out bulletins and candles before the ceremony, she was excited to reacquaint herself with the spiritual side of the holiday.

“If you go to the mall or listen to the music, that’s not really Christmas,” she said. “Church is where you find the meaning.”

As the busy shopping season wound down Friday &emdash; the last day to get gifts for Christmas &emdash; the holiday faithful, like Hope-O’Brien of Watsonville, stepped up for worship. Churches across Santa Cruz County opened their doors Christmas Eve to people celebrating the birth of Jesus, the messiah and central figure in Christianity.

“Let’s just take a deep breath,” said the Rev. Mark Spurlock as he invited attendees of Twin Lakes Church to forget the material commitments that have become synonymous with Christmas. “Doesn’t that feel good after all the hustle, bustle and stress.”

The Twin Lakes congregation spilled out of the church’s 1,500-person auditorium. It was just one of three there Friday night. The highlight was a candlelight ceremony where a flame was passed through candles held by attendees, which one church member described as a metaphor for the overflowing love of Jesus.

On the other side of the county, the Rev. Joe Occhiuto shared a similar Christian message with the congregation at Holy Cross Catholic Church in Santa Cruz.

“When God gave us Jesus, God gave us love,” Occhiuto said.

The packed mass was Occhiuto’s second Christmas Eve at Holy Cross since his return to Santa Cruz. Occhiuto had led the church’s holiday services in 1989, held in a tent after the Loma Prieta Earthquake rendered many of the city’s buildings uninhabitable.

This year’s service, like those before it, employed song and prayer to give thanks, particularly for the incarnation in which believers say God became flesh in Jesus.

Back at Twin Lakes, member Leigha Thomas of Soquel embraced the cool, but clear Christmas Eve as an opportunity to be with family. She remembered attending past holiday services with her grandparents, and this year, alongside her parents, her husband and her sister, was her newborn son Jacob, who will be witnessing his first Christmas today.

“What better way to celebrate than with family,” Thomas said.

Original article: Christmas Eve marked by worship, celebration