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Congregations within the community of Mandan will celebrate Jesus' birth with beloved carols, togetherness and a birthday party you won't want to miss. A powerful Christmas message and an attitude of giving is sure to accompany each one of these unique services and events.

Spirit of Life Roman Catholic Church

Prepare your heart for the coming joy by attending today’s “Anticipate Christmas” concert, hosted by Mandan’s Spirit of Life Roman Catholic Church.

A quartet of singers will perform compositions of the early church and the Baroque Period, as well as many beloved carols of today, including “Silent Night” and “Joy to the World.”

“I’m hoping the people who come to share music with us walk away with a sense of Christmas joy, wonder and awe, and that their hearts might be ready for the coming of Christ, the Messiah,” said Dominick Goettle, director of liturgy and music at Spirit of Life.

Hors d'oeuvres and refreshments will be served at the 6:15 p.m. social preceding the 7 p.m. concert.

A gourmet goodie walk, featuring Scandinavian almond bread, bars, brownies, cookies, chocolate and toffee, will begin at 4 p.m. All proceeds benefit the Mother Teresa Outreach program.

The event also features a silent auction, with proceeds to benefit the music ministry at Spirit of Life, 801 First St. S.E.

Heart River Lutheran Church

Just as they do every Sunday, members of the Heart River Lutheran Church congregation will spend Christmas Eve worshiping together. However, the service will be candlelit and the incarcerated youth who attend the church, located on the North Dakota Youth Correctional Center’s campus, will receive communal gifts.

“Those of us who are part of the Heart River Lutheran Church are always touched and changed by these young people,” said Pastor Renee Splichal Larson. “We’re very fortunate to be with them not only at Christmas time, but every week. It really changes us.”

Adult coloring books, sketch pads and board games are among the gifts to be unwrapped by YCC youth Christmas Eve, and the items will be shared in the cottages, where the youth are housed.

“The gifts are a small way we can make Christmas more joyful for these young people and to let them know, ‘We’re here for you, we’re thinking of you and here are some items you can use.’”

Heart River has been providing Sunday morning worship services at YCC for about 35 years. Youth are not required to attend; worship is voluntary.

“We try to meet them where they are. Before coming to YCC, for many of the youth, church was not a regular part of their life,” Larson said. “Some of them might be hearing the Christmas story for the first time. Sharing that message with them, that they voluntarily want to hear, is neat.”

A new service the church tried this year was Tuesday’s “Blue Christmas,” which acknowledges that Christmas can be a difficult period of time for some. Perhaps a loved one recently died or an individual is trapped in addiction. YCC youth are likely missing their family members, Larson said.

“Not everybody’s joyful at Christmas. It can be a really sad time,” she said. “At YCC, there are a lot of tears from young people wanting to be with their families.”

Those in attendance were encouraged to light candles in remembrance of loved ones and to participate in a healing rite.

“It’s a gift to be invited onto the YCC campus, and have half of us be young people,” said Larson. “We’re a ministry of ‘we’ together.”

Heart River’s traditional candlelight service begins at 7 p.m. Christmas Eve.

For more information, visit www.heartriverlutheran.org.

Surprise Church Mandan

Surprise Church Mandan is throwing a birthday bash for Jesus.

The party, complete with live music, refreshments and children’s activities, will begin at 10 a.m. Christmas Eve.

“We’ll have cupcakes and the whole nine yards,” said Pastor Tim Lucas, noting the “surprise” of Christmas is the birth of Jesus.

The fairly new church, which launched Oct. 1, will have just the one service Sunday.

“We’re trying to keep it very simple,” Lucas said. “We know Sunday will be a travel day for many. With the morning service, people can get up, come to church and hit the road by noon, and still be able to make it to Grandma’s house in time for dinner.”

The congregation is also participating in Surprise Church Bismarck’s “The Mercy Box Movement,” in which items are collected and donated to local nonprofit organizations.

Throughout the month of December, the sister churches will be collecting socks — fuzzy, fashion, dress and athletic — for the teenagers of Charles Hall Youth Services.

A collection box will be on-site at the Mandan church, 210 W. Main St., on Sunday.

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General Assignment Reporter