CHICAGO -- The Department for Communication of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) -- in cooperation with the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Saint Luke, Chicago, and the ELCA Metropolitan Chicago Synod -- will present "A CBS Christmas Special: This Holy Night," a one-hour Christmas Eve worship service to be broadcast nationally on CBS-TV. The program will also be broadcast on the Hallmark Channel, a national cable television channel.
The Dec. 24 CBS-TV broadcast will air at 11:35 p.m. Eastern Time, in place of "The Late Show With David Letterman," normally broadcast in the time slot. In the Chicago area, This Holy Night will be rebroadcast Dec. 25 on WBBM-TV, the local CBS-TV affiliate, at 1:10 a.m. Central Time.
The program will be shown at 2 a.m. Eastern Time Dec. 25 by Faith and Values Media on the Hallmark Channel.
"We are grateful for the opportunity CBS has given us and the confidence they have expressed in our production ability," said the Rev. Eric C. Shafer, director of the ELCA Department for Communication and executive producer for the broadcast. "We see this broadcast as a chance to reach more than 2 million people across North America with the message of Christmas, God's love for humankind in the person of Jesus Christ. We are also grateful to the pastors and people of the Church of Saint Luke for allowing us to tape this service in their church."
Planning for This Holy Night began in late summer after CBS-TV offered the time slot to the ELCA, Shafer said.
Ava Odom Martin, broadcast media production manager, ELCA Department for Communication, is producer of This Holy Night. Featured in the broadcast is the Rev. David G. Abrahamson, senior pastor, Church of Saint Luke, who will serve as presiding minister and preacher, and the Rev. Barbara Berry-Bailey, ELCA Department for Congregational Ministries, who will provide brief on-camera commentary for the viewing audience. The Rev. Paul R. Landahl, bishop of the ELCA Metropolitan Chicago Synod, will offer the benediction in the service. The Rev. Frank W. Stoldt, cantor, Church of Saint Luke, composed and arranged music and liturgy for the service. The ELCA worship team also contributed to the service, Stoldt added.
The service will be taped Dec. 6 at the Church of Saint Luke, an 1,800-member congregation. The 120-year-old congregation is ethnically, economically and vocationally diverse, said Abrahamson. Church members and school parents, faculty, students and staff have all played a role in making the Christmas Eve broadcast possible, he said. As many as 800 people are expected to be in the congregation for the taping.
"The celebration of Christmas in the churches is a holy joy as we witness the dawn of redemption and embrace God's promise of new life for here and for eternity," Abrahamson said. In celebrating Christmas, Christians "return to our true source, to reclaim our mission and to proclaim with our presence the sacred truths," he added.
Components of the service include proclamation of the Christmas story, Holy Communion, prayer and diverse music, including traditional Christmas hymns, African songs, jazz and Latino compositions, Stoldt said. The prayers will be led by representatives of each of the ELCA's full communion partners: The Episcopal Church, Moravian Church in America, Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), Reformed Church in America and United Church of Christ.
Music will be performed by a 35-voice broadcast choir, a 20-voice children's choir, a 20-piece orchestra featuring brass and strings, six-piece jazz ensemble and an organist, Stoldt said.
"This service represents the best of the Lutheran tradition and embraces ecumenical traditions," Stoldt said. "In 'This Holy Night,' we see that God is the one who has acted to join heaven and earth."
The theme, This Holy Night, will be articulated throughout the service in proclamation and music, he added.
Financial support for the broadcast and the service is being provided by the ELCA Department for Communication, the ELCA Metropolitan Chicago Synod, CBS-TV, the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Saint Luke and Augsburg Fortress, the publishing house of the ELCA. Augsburg Fortress is providing support for music, Stoldt said.
Information about "This Holy Night" and promotional materials can be found at http://www.elca.org/co/holynight.html on the ELCA Web site.
Information and promotional materials specific to the Central Time Zone and the Chicago area can be found at www.mcselca.org/christmas.html on the ELCA Metropolitan Chicago Synod Web site.
Information about the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Saint Luke can be found at http://www.stlukechicago.org/ on the congregation's Web site.
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