During the decade of the 1970’s, the people of St. John’s were involved during the Christmas season with special music programs with choirs of all ages and handbells on both Sunday and Wednesday nights. Various groups went caroling in the neighborhood at Presbyterian Hospital (Novant) and the Hawthorn Nursing Center which was located across Hawthorne Lane. In 1970, the St. John’s Choir was joined by the choir from Myers Park Baptist in a Christmas Oratorio; in 1974, they joined again in the singing of “Hodie” (This Day) along with the North Carolina Symphony; in 1980, the choir performed “Le Fiesta de la Posada” with Dave Brubeck at Spirit Square. Vesper services were held on Sunday afternoons with choir programs and Christmas pageants. In 1979, the Christmas story was told with a puppet show presented by the David and Nancy Nixon family. In 1978, the tradition began of a Christmas Eve Communion Service.
The youth continued to hold a Christmas party every year for the children of the Miss Anita after-school program. The entire church family was invited to contribute to the party via sock trees. There were also skating parties in the newly opened gym. In 1997, the youth held a Christmas dance and invited youth from Myers Park Baptist and Park Road Baptist. The youth muppet team was formed in the early 1980’s and helped in Christmas programs.
The WMU began distributing poinsettias to the older church members. This later became a project of the Youth of the church.
There was also an emphasis on foreign missions including the Lottie Moon offering. The senior adult group, the XYZ’s (Extra Years of Zest) had a special Christmas party every year which usually included some type of gift swap. In 1987, the group traveled to Williamsburg in December. In 1972, the nationally know humorist, Grady Nutt, was the guest at Family Night.
The first Hanging of the Green service was held in 1987 as part of the Sunday afternoon Vespers. This service became a part of Sunday morning services in 1991. Initially, the service included the decorating of the entire sanctuary by various ages with garlands, a poinsettia tree above the altar table, the Chrismon trees, and poinsettias in the windows. Memories of these services include Don Swofford and Ed Whitmire on ladders placing apple boards above the doors leading from the front of the sanctuary. In 1991, the first an Advent book with daily devotions was compiled with contributions from members.
After Dr. Richard Kremer came in the 1990’s. he directed plays with involved members of all ages, some of which were penned by Dr. Kremer. The first of these was “The Christmas Maker” in 1992. (Don Swofford, Bill Finger, and Bert Green were cast as hobos who were cajoled into being part of a Christmas nativity play.) Other plays included “The Colonel’s Christmas”, “The Herdman’s Discover Christmas”, and “Blue Christmas” with an appearance by Elvis Presley. (When Clara Kremer was an infant, she was the baby in the manger; however, she did not want to stay in the manger and a very attentive Mary held her for part of the play.)
There was also a yearly Stewardship emphasis in December. In 1997, the success of pledging was celebrated with a Stewardship breakfast on the first Sunday morning in December. This continued for several years.
The beginning of the 21st Century brought new traditions. The Miss Anita trees were replaced with “Angel Trees” for our Sudanese friends and those served by Charlotte Family Housing. The “neighbors’ post office” was begun to allow members to send cards to our older members via delivery by Deacons. St. John’s began a yearly concert broadcast on WDAV. These were first at noon and later became a night concert. The yearly Christmas Gathering for our senior adults began in the early 2010’s- the result of an idea of Dee Turner who planned this event and worked with the Women of the Church to make it a reality. This has become a highlight of the beginning of our church Advent season.
Then came Christmas, 2020. Due to the COVID pandemic, Christmas Eve Communion was celebrated at home. Gift bags were provided to members containing the communion elements and a candle. In spite of not being able to meet in person, some classes held meetings and social gathering via Zoom. Our traditional celebrations resumed in 2021. Those members who still did not feel comfortable with a lot of other people could “attend” through the church web site and YouTube.
Ways of celebrating Christmas at St. John’ s may have changed as we enter our Second Century. However, the traditions of special music and times of fellowship have continued through the years creating memories for all ages in the St. John’s family.