Hilliard churches are celebrating Christ's birth with charitable activities, cookies, creches and concerts, yet the Christmas Eve service remains central to the holiday.

Hilliard churches are celebrating Christ's birth with charitable activities, cookies, creches and concerts, yet the Christmas Eve service remains central to the holiday.

The Scioto Ridge United Methodist Church, 4343 Dublin Road, will have Christmas Eve services at 3 and 5 p.m. (both youth-oriented), 7, 9 and 11 p.m. (the latter will have a praise band and be more contemporary).

"We get a lot of folks in the doors that may not have a church home, that may not have a relationship with Christ, so it's an amazing time to kind of put our best foot forward and show them what we have to offer, and let them know the relationship they can have with their savior," said Scioto Ridge Associate Pastor Karen Crawford.

She said 1,700 people attended last year's services.

Charitable acts seem to increase at Christmas, and SRUMC is no exception.

"The Christmas Eve offering in its entirety will be going to hunger relief," Crawford said. "We'll be helping Friends of the Homeless, Church For All People and West Side Free Store.

"Besides that, we've been doing Christmas baskets for different families in the Hilliard area who are in need. We've also had a mitten and scarf tree - we've already received 120 of those that they've taken down and they're still collecting through January."

Toys have also been collected for charity at SRUMC.

"There's been more need than we've seen before," Crawford said. "We've had a lot of families who have been adopting other families, and a lot of folks have been bringing in different items to help. We've seen a lot of people here step up with their giving."

The Hilliard Presbyterian Church at 3600 Leap Road gave a free performance of Handel's Messiah last Dec. 20. The next day, they had a "Giving Tree Sorting Party."

"This has been going on for at least 15-16 years," said Pastor Jim Browne. A Baptist church in Columbus provides HPC with a list of children whose parents can't afford presents this year. The names are placed on a Christmas tree's stars, church members pick a star, and buy that child gifts. The other church's pastor and his wife then pass out the gifts on Christmas Eve.

The church also had a "Cookie Walk."

"That was an opportunity for people who love Christmas cookies, but don't have the time or the patience to bake them," Browne said. Each woman in the church baked five dozen cookies, and people put the cookies they wanted in a tin to buy.

HPC's Christmas Eve Services will be at 5:30 p.m. (youth-led) and 9 p.m. (a cantata performed by a choir and candle lighting).

The church also has a Christmas Day service at 9:30 a.m., something that not all churches do, Browne said.

"We want people to have an option on Christmas Day. We have had strangers who have found us on Christmas Day, who didn't have any place to go, who wanted to be in church. That's wonderful.

"Are we going to get a huge turnout? Nope. We'll get 30, 35 people and that'll be wonderful. We'll gather, we'll sing the good Christmas carols, and we'll hear the word, and go home. Very informal, very light."

Christmas and Easter are the two busiest times of the year at any church, Browne said.

"Everybody knows that there are C&E Christians, but what we want to be is a welcoming place (where) nobody is going to say, 'Where have you been for 52 weeks?'"

The Hilliard Church of Christ, 4300 Avery Road, had their second "Drive-Thru Nativity" on December 11. People dress in costume to depict five scenes from Christ's birth in the church's parking lot. "I think they'll have it again next year. It's been a great way for people to serve," said children's minister Nathan Bright.

The church staff likes to try different things during Christmas, Bright said, like having a children's Christmas musical as part of the December 6 service.

"I think they always try to find a different flavor each year, like we're doing a series of sermons about Christmas lights.

The Hilliard Church of Christ will have their Christmas Eve service at 6 a.m. Bright said the service is "simplistic, down-to-earth, no big dramas or things like that, just people getting together as families and friends to remember Jesus Christ's birth."