Churches go all out to tell the Christmas story in creative new ways

Holy Trinity Westerhailes
Holy Trinity and St Mungo's Churches in Westerhailes, Edinburgh took a backdrop and costumes to shopping centre so families could act out the Nativity story.

From three rapping Reverends to a teabag angel and a nativity selfie booth, Church members have been going all out this Advent season to bring the joy of the Christmas message to the masses.

Using social media and in-person contacts, Churches are getting creative with art, music, theatre and video to tell Jesus' story and spread the Gospels of hope and love.

Three ministers from Irvine teamed up to share the true Christmas story through a music video. Father Willie Boyd and Rev Neil Urquhart, also known as the Shoes Brothers, rap joyfully in their trademark dark glasses along with Rev Rhona Cathcart, aka "Minnie in Pink", and pupils from Loudoun Montgomeryand St Mark's primary schools.

The trio's version of Irvine born James Montgomery's famous carol, 'Angels from the realms of Glory' renamed 'In It', has the children dancing and rapping to the story of Jesus birth.

Father Boyd, a Roman Catholic priest and Mr Urquhart, a Church of Scotland minister, came together four years ago to combat sectarianism and spread the Gospels together.

In 2010, they made 'Ministers In Black', a parody of the film Men in Black, that decoded the symbols of Christmas, showing that the evergreen tree represents God's everlasting love, that Jesus is the gift we celebrate and Christmas lights represent the light he brings to our world.

"The aim is to involve local people of all ages and backgrounds in the marvellous, mysterious and moving story of God moving into the neighbourhood at Christmas time," said Mr Urquhart, minister at Fullarton Parish Church. "I'm happy to throw pride aside to try and connect people who usually celebrateonly 'Xmas' with the 'Christ' of Christmas.'"

With almost 6,000 views for their videos on Youtube and Facebook as well as plenty of attention from local radio and newspapers, the Shoes Brothers are using creativity and fun to get their message out to the community.

Holy Trinity and St Mungo's Churches of Scotland also took a creative approach to bringing the Good News to residents of Edinburgh's Wester Hailes parish. The congregations' outreach group, Stop for the One, heads out into the community once a month to show God's Goodness.

Stop for the One often stages a surprise event such as giving away a £2 gift, offering free hugs or staging a treasure hunt. For Christmas the group took a giant Nativity backdrop and a lot of costumes, to Westside Plaza shopping centre.

Children who might have been passed over for major roles in their school nativity plays, now had the chance to be Mary, Joseph or a star, said Rev Oliver Clegg, the youth minister at Holy Trinity.

"It was quite simple but very effective. Once they were in costume we took a polaroid photo and gave it to them. We also did some carol singing. It was a lot of fun. We really enjoyed it."

Some of the children had never seen polaroid film before," Mr Clegg said. "The film developed as they watched and it was amazing to them. It was such a joy.

"We find people are not resistant to hearing the message of the Gospel. They're actually hungry for faith, hungry to hear the Good News. People are looking for God, even though they might not know it."

Another creative effort this Christmas is on display at Dunblane Cathedral. The Teabag Angel was created by Sue Horne of St Saviour's Episcopal Church in Bridge of Allan. Dried and emptied, the teabags were formed into an angel and illuminated from within. The project aims to raise money for the charityAction Aid's Syria programme.

"It is gorgeous," said Rev Sally Foster Fulton, associate minister at Dunblane Cathedral and also Convener of the Church and Society Council. "I don't know what I expected, but this is extraordinary. Loads of people have been coming to see it after finding out about it on social media."

Now on the move, the Teabag Angel will be at Dunblane until the first week in January.

"About seven or eight people stayed after our carol service to see the Teabag Angel and it raised well over £100 for Syria in just a few minutes," Mrs Foster Futon said. "The angel has really captured people's imagination."

A massive interactive theatre event attracted almost 600 parents and children to New Laigh Kirk in Kilmarnock on November 29. The entire congregation helped transform the Church into the magical land of Narnia for the day.

People queued outside the church for hours in wind and rain to enjoy the Narnia Experience, based on CS Lewis's popular children's books. The story itself parallels the life of Christ, portraying him as Aslan, a wise and noble lion who sacrifices his own life for others before being reborn.

"This was a fantastic way to bring the Christian message to many families who may not venture into a church to celebrate Christmas," said minister Rev David Cameron.

This year too, video has become a key part of the Christian toolbox. The virtual Advent calendar drew 2,000 people to sign up within days. And on Facebook alone, two of the videos have reached more than 6,000 people.

The Moderator has taken to video to broadcast his Christmas message this year.

Rev Michael Mair who is a regular on the Fountainbridge Show was also asked to make a Christmas message. Watch his uplifting retelling of the Nativity story below.

Amid the joyful celebrations, Morningside Parish Church found time to think about the bereaved, the lonely and the exhausted, at its annual 'Blue Christmas' service.

"People need a quiet place to gather their thoughts and their energy," said Rev Derek Browning. "It's a time to remember, reflect, and maybe draw hope that even in the bluest of times, the light of Jesus still shines."