Note These New Christmastime Events

December 19, 2008

Simbang Gabi (Night Worship) at South Hayward UMC

The Philippines is known as the "Land of Fiestas," and at Christmastime, this is especially true. Filipinos are proud to proclaim their Christmas celebration to be the longest and merriest in the world. It begins formally on December 16 with attendance at the first of nine pre-dawn or early morning masses, and continues nonstop until the first Sunday of January, celebrated as the Feast of the Three Kings, which marks the official end of the season.
The Philippines is the only Asian country where Christians predominate. The majority of the people in the Philippines are Roman Catholic: Christmas, therefore, is an extremely important and revered holiday for most Filipinos. It is a time for family, for sharing, for giving, and a time for food, fun, and friendship.
To most Filipinos, Christmas is the most anticipated fiesta of the year and is celebrated accordingly. The splendid climate of this tropical island nation, the abundance and beauty of its flowers, and its lovely landscape, its multitude of culinary delights, and above all its warm-hearted people—with their true devotion to family and faith—all contribute to a holiday celebrated in the true Philippines fiesta tradition.
Starting after midnight of December 15, church bells will be ringing very early in the morning until Christmas Day. This day marks the beginning of the Christmas novena, or Simbang Gabi, in Tagalog.
For Filipino Catholics the nine-day celebration before Christmas is a tradition with deep roots in the country's religious culture. Literally, simbang gabi means "night worship." The name comes from the Catholic custom of gathering for the celebration of the Eucharist in the pre-dawn hours on each of the nine days before Christmas. Hence, this celebration is also known by its popular Spanish name as the misa de gallo, or "mass of the rooster." Catholic churches throughout the Philippines will be ringing their bells at around 3:00 or 3:30 in the morning—long before the roosters crow.
Over the generations, local Filipino faith communities have creatively adapted simbang gabi. For example, many urban parishes now celebrate simbang gabi around 8:00 or 9:00 in the evening, not just in the morning, in order to accommodate the needs of people on a great variety of work schedules. The custom is also kept among Filipinos living elsewhere in the world. No matter how or when this celebration takes place, the annual simbang gabi provides a strong indication of the depth of Catholicism in the hearts of Filipinos.
For those not taking in this celebration, simbang gabi may appear to be too much noise, too early in the morning. But a modicum of reflection easily allows everyone to gain insight into the deeper meaning of this celebration. Simbang gabi expresses the faith of Filipinos who hold the same core belief as all Christians: namely, that God is present in human history, even in the simple joys and anxieties of life's humblest activities. Filipino Catholics who sincerely live their belief in the incarnation merit the respect and admiration of the whole nation.
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South Hayward UMC is offering three Simbang Gabi Services: Dec. 21, 22, and 23 at 7 p.m., followed by a light refreshment and fellowship. On Tuesday, Dec. 23, Katherine Parker, a young adult GBGM missionary assigned to Cambodia, will be the guest speaker.
Here is South Hayward's complete Christmas worship schedule:
Dec. 21, 10:30 a.m. - Christmas Cantata
Dec. 21, 7 p.m. - Simbang Gabi
Dec. 22, 7 p.m. - Simbang Gabi
Dec. 23, 7 p.m. - Simbang Gabi
Dec. 24, 7 p.m. - Christmas Eve Service
Dec. 31, 7 p.m. - Watch Night/New Year's Eve Service
South Hayward UMC is located at 628 Schafer Road, Hayward, CA  94544. For more information call or email the church at 510-780-9599,
Maligayang Pasko!  Merry Christmas!
Live Nativity at Rancho Cordova UMC
For the 27th consecutive year, the Rancho Cordova United Methodist Church will present a live Nativity Scene on December 22, 23, and 24 from 6:00 to 8:00 each evening. This tradition is billed "Our Christmas Card to the Community" by the congregation. 
The 7 p.m. Christmas Eve service at the church will conclude with a candlelit "Silent Night" that will encircle the Nativity Scene. 
Everyone is invited to drive by and view and/or stop to worship at this inspirational, humble rendition of Jesus Christ's birth.
The location is 2101 Zinfandel Drive, on the lawn of Rancho Cordova UMC church, facing Zinfandel and Mitchell Junior High.  
If you would like additional information, call 916-635-4242 or email
Toy Drive at Pine UMC
Pine UMC will accept toys through December 22 for the San Francisco Firefighters' Toy Program—the city's largest toy drive and the oldest program of its kind in the nation.
To participate, take an unwrapped gift, suitable for a child aged infant to 12 years, to the church at 426 33rd Avenue, San Francisco, CA 94121. You may also donate money which the church will use to buy toys for the drive.
For more information contact the Pine UMC office at 415-387-1800 or email or
Link here to read about other Christmastime events: