Eastside UMC in the Atlanta-Decatur-Oxford District noticed several years ago that some of its members had taken the journey through Advent, but weren't in town for Christmas Eve Worship. The members were disappointed to miss Christmas Eve with their church family.
"Due to the stage of life and demographics of Atlanta, many of our members were heading out of town to be with family," said Rev. Tim Lloyd, pastor of Eastside. "So a few years back we decided to start offering an identical Christmas Eve service a little early for those who wanted to experience the culmination of the Advent season with their church family and then head out of town."
Though they didn't realize it at the time, it's an idea that has taken hold in many United Methodist churches.
Eastside offers the service on the last night they expect travelers to be in town before Christmas. This year, that's Thursday, December 20.
"About 1/3 of our Christmas Eve attendance is from the Traveler's service," said Lloyd. "It's been very successful at Eastside."
Several other United Methodist churches offer a service the night before Christmas Eve or the Sunday before Christmas Eve. For members who are going "home for Christmas" or traveling over the holiday, this is a welcome opportunity to light candles and sing the songs of Christmas Eve at their church home.
A few of the United Methodist churches offering "Traveler's Christmas Eve" services include: