FAITH AND FAMILY — Local faiths celebrate messages of peace, hope & joy

Published 12:13 am Friday, December 27, 2019

Local Christians who gathered in houses of worship heard the story of the birth of Jesus and a message of hope, peace and love that is meant to offer comfort and guide one through trials and tribulations.

Different faiths have their own way of presenting the message.

At St. Joseph Catholic Church in Port Arthur, the Rev. Kevin Badeaux and the Rev. Anthony McFarland offer services in English and Spanish and a bilingual Mass.

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In addressing the children, Badeaux noted the baby Jesus lying in the manger, he said. The box of hay where the baby laid was used to feed the animals and Father Kevin, as he is known, made the connection as many church fathers have, of the incarnation and the Eucharist.

“Just as the animals are fed from the manger, Jesus himself, when he grew up, through death and resurrection, gave his own body as blood as spiritual nourishment,” Badeaux said. “He (later) asked the children to think of the gifts they receive on Jesus’ birthday. Besides tangible gifts, what kind of gifts did they want to give to their families — love and peace and joy, they said. The intangible gifts we can share.”

The church was heavily damaged during Hurricane Harvey in 2017. There was much repair to be done, and months later the congregation was able to return and hold services in Cody Hall on the church grounds.

In mid-December 2018, on the feast day of Our Lady of Guadalupe, the congregation was able to attend Mass in the church. In January 2019, Bishop Curtis Guillory held a rededication ceremony.

The church has continued to bounce back and now has an adoration chapel open daily from 9 a.m. to 10 p.m., Badeaux said.

And on the weekends there are five services; 5 p.m. Saturday in English, 7:30 a.m. Sunday in English, 8:45 a.m. Sunday in Spanish, 11:30 a.m. Sunday in English and 3 p.m. Sunday in Spanish.

First Baptist Church in Nederland saw a special candlelight service that is a tradition with the congregation.

The Rev. Jason Burden said the service is driven by the message the angels told the shepherd — “peace on earth and good will toward men.”

He recalled how the families are gathered and how the candlelight service is part of the church family tradition for 53 years.

“It’s continuity year to year, generation to generation and helps keep people glued together,” Burden said. “Our traditions’ weight is something that a single message can’t bear.”

The service was largely music driven, he said, adding there were some exceptional pieces done by the hand bell choir and they also focused on the children with the nativity story from Luke Chapter 2, which was the centerpiece of the service.

The candle lighting was symbolic, and every person in the church had a candle. Starting from the front, one person lights the next person’s candle, stands up and so on as a person on guitar sings Silent Night.

“By the end of the last verse of Silent Night, the entire church is filled with just candlelight and a picture of what the angel said, ‘peace on earth good will to men,’” Burden said.

The church has done its duty to the community and has been open twice this year as an evacuation shelter and as disaster relief area. Burden hopes for a better 2020 for all, he said.

First United Methodist Church in Port Neches held Advent services leading up to Christmas with the theme of “Are We There Yet?” focusing on peace, hope, joy, trust and love.

The Rev. Curtis Matthys said some of the focus was on Mary and how the journey to the birth of Christ did not happen as she had hoped.

“New life is born sometimes in the midst of things that sometimes are not the way we planned,” Matthys said.

Special services the weekend before Christmas dealt with cosmic smashbooking, a process of dealing with greed or anxiety or fear and journaling about that and processing it even deeper.

The next night was a Blue Christmas.

“Some call it the longest night; it’s usually held around the winter equinox,” Matthys said. “It addresses the fact that sometimes when everybody else wants to sing Joy to the World, you may not if you lost your job, a loved one or there is tragedy in your community, and you’re not feeling it.”

The service gives those not in the holiday spirit a chance to express their grief or anxiety and start the process of healing.