Unitarian Christmas Services among Most Popular

Article excerpt

Today, Catholic and Protestant churches will be packed to overflowing, as even those who do not usually attend church services gather to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ.

But in an odd theological twist, some of the most popular and well-attended Christmas services take place at Unitarian Universalist churches, many of which add extra services to accommodate huge turnouts.

What is surprising - and disturbing to some mainstream Christians - is how Christmas can attract so many people to a denomination that does not believe Jesus was the son of God.

While Christians are united by the belief that Jesus was the Messiah, Unitarians generally do not believe in Jesus' divine birth, regarding him instead as a great prophet and teacher.

"I find it difficult to comprehend how a denomination that is not Christian and rejects one of the most central tenets of Christianity can sing Christmas hymns and tell the Nativity story," said Rev. Paul Fuester, a Pentecostal minister in Providence. "It seems a little bit misleading."

But Unitarian ministers and congregants say the importance of Christmas is not just celebrating Jesus' birth but reflecting on what his birth means. "It's not a time to dispute the theology, but a time to celebrate the memory of Jesus," said the Rev. Ken Sawyer, minister of First Parish Unitarian church in Wayland, Mass..

Unitarians say they view Jesus' birth as the arrival of a man who influenced the Western world and was one of the greatest role models in human history. …