Away in a Manger

When Pastor Janet Hunt with First Lutheran Church of DeKalb heard of churches doing a “barn service” on Christmas Eve, she knew it was an idea she wanted to pursue.

“We hear in the Christmas story that Jesus was born in a place where animals were fed and sheltered. This service is an attempt to give those an experience of what that setting may have been like,” said Pastor Janet.

Pastor Janet organized the first Christmas Eve barn service in 2011 at Dean and Charlene Johnson’s farm in Sycamore. Pastor Preston Fields with Salem Lutheran Church in Sycamore joined the event in later years.

“Our family looks forward to hosting the Christmas Eve service in our barn every year. Many people tell us that it is their favorite Christmas service. I believe it is because it is so simple and basic,” said Dean Johnson.

“There is the presence of farm animals, families sitting on hay bales and singing Christmas carols and participating in the telling of the Christmas story. For some it might be the sense of what it was like for Mary to give birth in a manger away from home on a cold day in Bethlehem many years ago. Whatever the reason it is a celebration of the birth of Christ, and we are happy to help facilitate this event with our local churches and community,” said Dean.

The magical service has taken place each of the last 10 years (except during COVID). The evening includes Christmas carols, the reading of the Christmas Story, and the sharing of Holy Communion.

People of all ages attend and stay after the service to interact with the animals and one another.

Throughout the years, the Johnson barn has had a mini horse, mini donkey, mini pig, pheasants, quail, and goats present.

“It is a unique experience, and for some their favorite worship service of the year. It is a special gift to me to see the excitement of the children,” said Pastor Janet.

That excitement continues throughout the blessed holiday.

This year, services will be held at 6:30 and 7:15 p.m. on Christmas Eve at 1502 W. Motel Road, Sycamore. Anyone is welcome to attend and celebrate among the animals.

Photos courtesy of Pastor Mack Patrick and Pastor Preston Fields