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Posted: December 23, 2010 9:16 a.m.

Christmas Eve services offered

You have a choice of either a family celebration or a classic observance of Christmas Eve on Friday at The Church of Covington, 11975 Ga. Highway 142 in Oxford.

The Family Christmas Eve service will be held at 7 p.m. and the Classical Christmas Eve service starts at 11 p.m.

The late service will feature Atlanta’s Amadeus Strings Ensemble, professional musicians who play with groups including the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra, the Atlanta Ballet, and the Atlanta Opera.

"I am a great lover of chamber music and this year I am giving our church family and community an opportunity to enjoy some great chamber music by professional musicians," said the Rev. David Payne, church pastor. "It will be a special treat for me, our church and community."

Both services will feature traditional sacred and secular Christmas songs, a recounting of the Biblical Christmas story of the birth of Jesus, times for reflection and prayer, and an observance of Communion.

Each service will have a distinct atmosphere. The 7 p.m. service will be geared to families with young children, while the 11 p.m. service will be more reflective and serene.

The Rev. Ben Wood will assist Payne with the family service, while the Rev. Jeff Hay and several musicians and audio-visual technicians will help with the classical service.

Payne decided he wanted a late Christmas Eve celebration at his church after attending a midnight Mass about 15 yeas ago at St. Augustine Catholic Church in Covington. He wanted to re-create that same sense of wonder for his congregation.

"When I arrived, the place was filled with people and for an hour I sat in total amazement at the peacefulness and tranquility of the service setting and the time," Payne said. "I was so impressed with what I had experienced that I decided to start a new tradition the following year at The Church at Covington. For the past 15-plus years we have held a service at 11 p.m., and it has been very well attended and is always a blessed time."

Payne said Christmas Eve is such a special time for many people because they are practically forced to slow down and consider the true meaning of the season.

"For me, the Christmas Eve service gives families and individuals a time to be quiet, catch their breath from the hurriedness of the season, and truly reflect on the meaning and blessing of Christmas," said Payne. "There is something special about everything being closed, so there is nowhere to go, except Waffle House, and people are able to stop and reflect on and give thanks for the miracle that is Christmas."

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