Christmas at Northside Church

Join us for worship at Northside Church as we celebrate Christ’s coming into the world!

The Christmas Experience returns for a second year on Thursday, December 23. Children of all ages will enjoy a family-focused experience with animals, cookies, hot cocoa/coffee, carolers, a Nativity Scene, Holy Communion and worship.

We will offer six in-person Christmas Eve Services on Friday, December 24, including:

  • Traditional Services (Sanctuary)                              12:00, 2:00, 4:00, & 6:00
  • Contemporary Services (Faith & Arts Center)           3:00 & 5:00

You can join us both onsite and online. The 12:00, 3:00, and 6:00 services will be live-streamed. Also, the recordings will be archived for those who want to watch them later on the church’s website.

Registration is required for both the Christmas Experience and the Christmas Eve Services at In order to safeguard everyone’s health, seating is limited, and some services may be sold out.

During this holiest of seasons, “O come, let us adore him, Christ the Lord!”

The Church of the Nativity

The Church of the Nativity marks the traditional site of Jesus’ birth. When Emperor Constantine of Rome became a Christian in the 4th century, his mother, Helena, visited the Holy Land. She commissioned a number of basilicas (churches) to be built over sacred sites, including the Church of the Nativity.

“O little town of Bethlehem” is not so little anymore. The population of 25,000 hosts 2 million tourists annually. Figures of celestial beings, stars, and shepherds fill the small city a few miles south of Jerusalem.

Commerce rules at Manger Square where merchants prey on religious pilgrims. Tourists can purchase postcards, scarves, crosses, mangers, angels, camels, and more. Forests of carved olive wood figures fill the stores’ shelves. If a herald angel appeared today, no one would hear the natal news above the din of engines, horns, and crowds.

The basilica’s low entrance causes congregations to duck. Church officials lowered the entrance to prevent people from riding horses, camels, and donkeys into the building. The trivia tickled my sense of humor; but it felt fitting to humbly bow while entering the ancient sanctuary.

The Church of the Nativity precariously balances sacred and secular, grandeur and gaudy, touching and tacky. Crimson glass-blown balls hang from the ceilings and cloying incense perfumes the air. In an odd anachronism, energy-saving, curly florescent bulbs provide modern light from ancient fixtures.

The 14-point star marks the traditional site of Jesus’ birth.

Forget Christmas card, manger scenes complete with barn and stable—Jesus’ birth probably occurred in a cave. A stairwell descends to a small grotto guarded by a priest. A 14-point silver star beneath an altar marks the traditional site of Jesus’ birth.

I have visited the Church of the Nativity several times and always felt underwhelmed. The ornate setting of the nativity feels like a visual oxymoron—the humble scene of Jesus’ birth overlaid with gilded with glitter and glitz.   

I prefer the Shepherd’s Fields south of town. A peaceful garden overlooks the green slopes ascending to Bethlehem. In the foreground, shepherds tend their flocks as their ancestors did millennia ago. The simple scene reflects the Biblical story of Jesus’ birth much more than the bustling business of Bethlehem.

For those with ears to hear, the angelic message still echoes over the plains. “Good news . . . great joy . . . for all people . . . born to us today . . . a Savior . . . Christ . . . the Lord.”

Like the shepherds, may we say to one another, “Let us go see this thing which the Lord has done.

The Pink Pig

People debate the official start of the holiday season. Retailers introduce ads in the early fall. Traditionalists wait until the Friday after Thanksgiving. Religious precisionists insist December 25th introduces the Twelve Days of Christmas.

Growing up in Georgia, I knew that the holidays began on Thanksgiving night at 7:28 p.m. when Rich’s lighted the Great Tree in downtown Atlanta.

Rich’s glowed bright with magic and imagination in December. The multistory emporium doubled as Santa’s southern workshop. The storefront windows and department store counters contained childhood’s dreams. A native grown pine crowned the building with basketball-sized ornaments and brightly colored lights.

Each December my family made our annual holiday pilgrimage to Rich’s. My sister and I craned our necks to be the first to spot the Great Tree. After parking in a covered deck, we crossed the seven-story bridge spanning Forsyth Street.

The Rich’s bakery produced delectable treats. The glass shelves groaned under the weight of glazed donuts, frosted cookies, pralines, fruitcakes, pecan pies, chocolate drops, candied apples, toffee, and caramel.

My mother loved the fruit bars. My father and sister stuck to the chocolate eclairs. I preferred the rainbow selection of candy fruit slices.

Santa Claus resided on the top floor of the department store. Bolstered by a sugar high, we joined a long line meandering through the carpet department. After a two-hour wait, the final turn revealed the BIG MAN himself, clothed in red velvet and ivory fur. Naughty and nice children spent one minute rapidly reciting their Christmas wishes. A bright flash and exchange of cash preserved photographic memories.

Another line filed past Santa’s live reindeer. Nameplates identified the eight creatures who pulled the flying sleigh. Then we ascended to the roof where the Pink Pig ruled in all of its mechanical glory.

The elevated train sported hot pink cars named Priscilla and Percival with porcine faces and curly tails. It originally hung from the ceiling over the Toy Department before rumbling and rattling around Rich’s roof. Even small children felt cramped in the cage-like compartments.

For children of my era, the ride felt magical. A polar express to the North Pole could not have been any more enchanting. The next day at school I proudly wore my “I Rode the Pink Pig!” sticker as a pink badge of courage.

The years have passed with Christmases come and gone. After the demolition of the downtown store, the Great Tree relocated to Lenox Square in 2000.

The original Pink Pig moved to the Festival of Trees at the Atlanta World Congress. Then it retired to a sty of honor at the Atlanta History Center. In 2003, Macy’s reinvented the ride at its Lenox Square location. This fall the store announced Priscilla’s latest retirement from the Atlanta cityscape.

I fondly recall childhood’s holiday memories. Today our family enjoys its own Christmas traditions. We are “making memories” for our children and grandchild that will always remain a part of their lives. If they remember the past with the same sense of wonder and warmth that their father enjoys, then I’ll be tickled pink.