Christmas is exactly one month away, and churches are gearing up for a monthlong celebration of the second holiest day in Christianity, a time of joy, music and gifts.
Want to take your elementary-age kids to see Roman soldiers mounted on horses in an outdoor, interactive setting? Check out the Journey to Bethlehem event in Ceres. Prefer to sit indoors and sing Christmas carols? Several churches are offering a variety of familiar carols. There's also a breakfast with Santa, a holiday bazaar, classy cantatas and plenty of other activities to get you into the real Christmas spirit. To avoid the Grinch-like attitude that can come from too much stress and a long to-do list, check out these faith-based activities:
JOURNEY TO BETHLEHEM Nov. 29-Dec. 1 and Dec. 6-8, 7 p.m. Thursdays and Fridays, 6 p.m. Saturdays, Grace Community Christian Church, 3754 E. Service Road, Ceres. Gates close each night at 9 p.m. Interactive walking tour from town of Nazareth to Bethlehem includes visits with shepherds and wise men, as well as Roman soldiers on horseback. Tour, which ends at scene with baby Jesus, takes about 45 minutes (doesn't include waiting time) and covers about a mile over uneven ground. Not suitable for wheelchairs or strollers. Free. (209) 531-1902.
JAZZ VESPERS 5 p.m. Dec. 2, First United Methodist Church, 850 16th St., Modesto. Celebrate beginning of Advent with the theme of "light" and music by the Fred Rudolph Trio. Jazz arrangements of favorite carols with liturgy, prayer and contemplation. (209) 522-9046.
LINCOLN BREWSTER 7 p.m. Dec. 4, Monte Vista Chapel, 1619 E. Monte Vista Ave., Turlock. Award-winning Christian artist Lincoln Brewster in "Joy to the World Tour" concert. Event benefits students from Turlock High School going on a missions trip. Offering. (209) 634-4935.
CHRISTMAS AT THE HOUSE 7 p.m. Dec. 6-7, 6 p.m. Dec. 8, and 9 and 11 a.m. Dec. 9, Calvary Temple Worship Center, 1601 Coffee Road, Modesto. Holiday spectacular with live music, dancing, comedy and beauty of Christmas for entire family. Offering. (209) 529-7346.
CHRISTMAS LESSONS & CAROLS 7:30 p.m. Dec. 7, St. Francis Anglican Church, 915 E. Main St., Turlock. Presentation by Stanislaus chapter of the American Guild of Organists. (209) 632-0788.
BREAKFAST WITH SANTA 8 a.m. to noon Dec. 8, St. Stanislaus Community Center, 1416 Maze Blvd., Modesto. Pancake breakfast benefits St. Vincent de Paul ministry. Children can take photos with Santa. Offering. (209) 524-4381.
HOLIDAY BAZAAR 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Dec. 8, River Oak Grace Community Church, 7712 Rodden Road, Oakdale. More than 40 vendors plus bake sale to benefit needy families. Sponsored by Mothers of Preschoolers (MOPS). (209) 324-3649.
LAS POSADAS 5:30 p.m. Dec. 9, Columbia State Historic Park, Columbia. 30th annual event re-creates the Spanish tradition of the biblical story of Mary and Joseph searching for shelter in Bethlehem, but with an 1850s flavor. Carolers in period costumes provide music; onlookers participate, singing carols by candlelight down Main Street. Free. (209) 532-6604.
CANTATA 7 p.m. Dec. 9, Good Shepherd Lutheran Church, 640 Minaret Ave., Turlock. Selection of Christmas music performed by church choir. (209) 667-7712.
HOME FOR CHRISTMAS 7 p.m. Dec. 13-14, 6 p.m. Dec. 16, Shelter Cove Community Church, 4242 Coffee Road, Modesto. Music, drama, humor and interactive worship set against backdrop of nostalgic radio broadcast. Child care for infants through kindergarten. Free.(209) 567-3200.
KATINAS 6 p.m. Dec. 14, Monte Vista Chapel, 1619 E. Monte Vista Ave., Turlock. Christian pop/rock group in "A Christmas Collage Concert" to benefit Turlock Gospel Mission. Offering. (209) 634-4935.
LESSONS AND CAROLS 7 p.m. Dec. 14-15, Modesto Covenant Church, 913 Floyd Ave. Evening of music by Celtic band, church choir and orchestra, kids choir and handbell choir. "Great music from the Christmas season for the whole family." Child care provided. (209) 577-4110.
LIVE NATIVITY 7-9 p.m. Dec. 14-16, Modesto Free Methodist Church, 1520 Rose Ave. Live Nativity is an outdoor Christmas drama repeating every half hour. Refreshments. (209) 522-3583.
CHRISTMAS CANTATA 9 and 10:30 a.m. Dec. 16, Centenary United Methodist Church, Norwegian and McHenry avenues, Modesto. "Lead Me Back to Bethlehem" by church choir.(209) 527-5441.
SANTA BINGO 4-6 p.m. Dec. 16, First United Methodist Church, 850 16th St., Modesto. Family-friendly event with bingo, cookies and hot chocolate. Free. (209) 522-9046.
CANDLES AND CAROLS 5 p.m. Dec. 16, Modesto Church of the Brethren, 2301 Woodland Ave. Candles and Carols Advent concert includes candlelight, choral pieces, bell choir, Scripture, story and carols, followed by a reception with baked goods. Free.(209) 523-1438.
FESTIVAL OF MUSIC 7 p.m. Dec. 16, Good Shepherd Lutheran Church, 640 Minaret Ave., Turlock. Christmas music by handbell choir, praise band, adult choir and other musicians. Carols sung by musicians and congregation. Scripture readings interspersed throughout service. (209) 667-7712.
CHRISTMAS CANTATA 10 a.m. Dec. 23, First United Methodist Church, 850 16th St., Modesto. "Tapestry of Light A Celtic Christmas Celebration" by Joseph Martin features choir, pipe organ and instrumental ensemble. (209) 522-9046.
LESSONS & CAROLS 6:30 p.m. Dec. 23, St. Francis Anglican Church, 915 E. Main St., Turlock. The story of the fall of humanity, the promise of the Messiah and the birth of Jesus is told in nine short Bible readings, interspersed with singing of Christmas carols, hymns and choir music.(209) 632-0788.
Bee staff writer Sue Nowicki can be reached at email@example.com or (209) 578-2012.