Ideas for Decorating a Church Sanctuary for Christmas

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While Christmas decorations in a church sanctuary generally focus more on the religious and spiritual reasons for the holiday season, a little decorating still goes a long way to create a festive seasonal touch.

At the minimal end of things, church Christmas decorations may include a nativity scene, candle lights and a little greenery such as pine roping.

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Learn how to make the decorations pop by adding dollops of color with poinsettia plants, or upscale banners and ornaments featuring the concepts of hope and joy.

Christmas nativity scene

Many churches display a nativity scene during the holiday season, and if there's room for it in the church sanctuary, it may sit off to one side where it's visible to all the seated congregants.

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A church nativity scene may be rather large, with cutout wood or foam board characters or even three-dimensional figures including Mary, Joseph, Baby Jesus, the Wise Men, shepherds and animals. A nativity scene used in a church sanctuary usually looks upscale and much nicer than the blow-mold-style displays decorating some yards around town.

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Advent wreath and candles

Many Christian churches celebrate Advent, a time of reflection on and throughout the four Sundays before Christmas day. An Advent wreath serves as a centerpiece, usually near the church altar or in a place where all congregants can see it.

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Instead of a wreath that hangs vertically, as might be done with Christmas decor at home, an Advent Christmas wreath sits horizontally on a surface as a ring around four candles. The ring shape of the wreath has no beginning or end, symbolizing eternal life. The various forms of greenery within the wreath symbolize different traits as well, such as strength and victory from suffering. Pinecones decorating the wreath are symbols of both life and resurrection.

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One candle is lit on each Sunday of Advent, in a specific order symbolizing hope, faith, joy and prayer or peace, depending upon the church.

Each Sunday of Advent is represented by one of the four candles displayed at the center of the Advent wreath during Christmas time. One candle is lit on each Sunday of Advent, in a specific order symbolizing hope, faith, joy and prayer or peace, depending upon the church. In many cases, all but the third candle are purple or violet, with the third a rose pink hue symbolizing joy.

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Your church may have different colors for the candles, but they generally carry similar symbolism. In some churches, a fifth candle called the Christ candle is lit on Christmas day; it's all white symbolizing Jesus' purity and his birth.

Church sanctuary lighting

Aside from the Advent wreath and candles, other Christmas lights also come in handy for decorating the church sanctuary, but not in the traditional home decor sense.

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Use actual candles, or candles in lanterns, near the back of the stage or altar area to add a meditative, reflective touch. Candles, most likely safer LED or electric candles, may be placed on window sills to illuminate the church sanctuary during a Christmas Eve service with dimmed lighting. The candle lights also add a festive, reflective glow when viewed from outdoors.

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Christmas greenery and plants

Christmas season greenery adds a nice touch to the inside of the church sanctuary without delving too much into the more commercial types of holiday decor. Try out these ideas:

  • Pine roping‌ looks nice draped along the sides of the pews or in symmetrical arcs from window to window, below each window sill. Wrap the greenery diagonally, candy cane style, around columns and support beams for even more decor.
  • Poinsettias‌ are holiday classics sometimes used in a church sanctuary at Christmastime as well. Display them in areas where they aren't in the way, but are still visible, such as on window sills toward the front or altar area.
  • A church that participates in an ‌angel tree‌ or similar program in which parishioners buy gifts for those in need may display an evergreen tree that looks like a typical Christmas tree but with Christmas tree decorations shaped like slips of paper denoting specific items an individual or family needs.
  • If any ‌Christmas ornaments‌ are displayed on such a tree, they're usually limited to one or two colors, such as white and gold, and classy in appearance. The ornaments may also display words fitting of the season, such as "Hope," "Faith" and "Joy." Large, classy banners in gold or white displaying similar concepts may also be used to decorate the area on either side of the altar or stage area.

Keep it classy

No matter what the religious organization, it's best to use a minimal amount of baubles, ornaments and other decorations, as these things are not the reason for the season. A little decorative touch goes a long way. Enjoy the classy decor around your church and reflect on the spirit of the season.

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