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Christmas at Grapevine churches is far from the typical pageant

Christmas services are going high-tech at two Grapevine churches.

Beginning with invitations that virtually bring the pastor and his wife out of computer screens, Fellowship Church presents a 3-D Christmas.

Over at Community Church, science supports Bible stories as a former Texas A&M University professor presents The Star of Bethlehem.

Fellowship's senior pastor, Ed Young, said that he and his wife, Lisa, pop out of a gift-wrapped box to greet people who hold a specially designed invitation up to their computers' webcams. They encourage recipients to attend any of 21 services at Fellowship Church's five campuses, beginning with one at 6 tonight at its main campus in Grapevine.

Associate Pastor Andy Boyd said everyone who walks into the sanctuary will get 3-D glasses.

The cost may add up considering that Fellowship has seen upward of 45,000 people attend its Christmas services. But Young said it's less expensive than traditional Christmas pageants.

"We did the pageant twice, then decided to dial down Christmas services and show what Fellowship Church is all about," he said.

Using video during worship and sermons isn't uncommon. But 3-D messages are unique, Young said.

"We're doing a 3-D Christmas because people are looking for height, width and depth in their lives," he said. "We'll have some of our musical numbers using video in 3-D."

Young said it took four hours to video the first three minutes of his Christmas 3-D message, which focuses on his dogs.

The three dogs forced open the back door, then proceeded to tear into presents, candy and everything else they could reach, Young said.

"I'm talking about what is eating your Christmas, or what's eating you this Christmas," he said of his message. "It isn't Avatar. It's more like Jaws III."

Astronomy meets history

At Community Church, Rick Larson uses astronomy software and clues from the Bible to re-create the skies as they were over the Middle East 2,000 years ago.

The service is designed to help people experience the Nativity in a new way, Executive Pastor Joe Sanchez said.

"The Star of Bethlehem presentation demonstrates how sound scientific principles map the truth contained in the Bible related to the birth of Christ," Sanchez said. "We're pleased to make this exploration of science and faith available to the community at large."

Facets of Larson's research and arguments can be seen at www.bethlehemstar.net.

Sanchez said that, in addition to being fascinating, the program gives believers a tool to reach nonbelievers.

"In our culture today there is a small dichotomy between science and faith," he said. "Many in the academic community would say 'If you believe in science, you can't possibly believe that there's a God.'"

Believing that more and more people in the scientific community are searching for a creator, Sanchez called The Star of Bethlehem "a great outreach to the skeptic."

"It's also a really cool presentation," he said.

Terry Evans, 817-390-7620

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