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Churches prepare for Christmas celebrations both physically and spiritually

By CAROLINE GABLE

UTICA, N.Y. (WKTV) - Is hosting family and friends for the holidays starting to stress you out?

Well imagine if you were expecting hundreds to your house on Christmas Eve. One man in Utica is busy preparing for just that - Father Jim Cesta at St. Mary of Mt. Carmel Blessed Sacrament Parish in Utica.

At the stroke of midnight on Christmas Eve, a now-empty house of worship will turn into standing room only. At Mt. Carmel Church, Christmas is the busiest time of year, and preparing for the holiday comes in both a physical and spiritual form.

It started with a team of half a dozen parishioners decorating Wednesday night, with ribbons, wreaths, and trees.

Then talks turned to Christmas Mass.

A choir of fifty has been practicing old Christmas favorites like Silent Night, and working on new hymns, incorporating different languages.

The nativity scene is all set up, waiting for the arrival of baby Jesus on Christmas Eve.

Father Cesta bears the weight of delivering a Christmas sermon to hundreds. He says Christmas is about children, music and a message. Each audience is different and so is every homily he prepares.

"You have to just read people, what's happening this week, could be different from what is happening next week," Father Cesta said. "We are all looking for blessings, strength, light, peace and a little hope heading into the new year, and our Christmas celebrations, hopefully, open the door to the new year. Really, this is the threshold into the new year coming."

There are four different Christmas Masses to choose from at Mt. Carmel, two on Christmas Eve and two on Christmas Day.

While parishioners and their families are welcome, so are strangers.

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