St. Paul’s Lutheran School Continues Christmas Tradition

The Christmas Eve service at St. Paul’s Lutheran School and Church remains a favorite celebration among families and has been a holiday tradition for generations.With K-8th grade students participating in the children’s musical service at 7 p.m., the hallmark is “The Ungemach,” named after a teacher who wrote the cornerstone piece over 135 years ago in German. Under the direction of Ann Fritz, St. Paul’s music teacher, it is a liturgical selection that has become a tradition for St. Paul’s Lutheran School.“It’s delight and strength are the parts that are done by children alone and parts that are [sung by] the pastor,” Ann Fritz says. It’s this combination of singing responsively between the students and the pastor that makes “The Ungemach” a memorable part of the service.The service also includes student instrumentalists playing handbells, trumpets, flutes, and Orff instruments, adding to the musical variety.“The kids ask, ‘Aren’t we going to do what we did last year?’ And they’re disappointed if we’re not and that means they loved it,” Ann Fritz adds. “They’ve embraced what they’ve done.”But it’s more than just tradition that spurs St. Paul’s to repeat this holiday celebration. There’s also a message behind what they do.“It’s not enough to have a pretty song or cute kids,” Fritz says. ““But strong words, meaty words, that let us know Christ loves us. The words have to have meaning.”The meaning behind the children’s Christmas Eve tradition at St. Paul’s is one reason why it’s become one of the most cherished celebrations of the year.Mrs. Fritz also sees the musical preparation as a key building block for the students’ music education. Practices for the children’s service begin six weeks early. By rehearsing the same music every year, the music program becomes a continuum of learning experiences, starting with kindergartners who learn what a singing voice is and leading up to middle school, where they practice singing parts in the choir.But the learning process is more than just music, notes Mrs. Fritz, “It’s all scripture. It’s wonderful, select prophesies about his birth that are sung. It’s wonderful to have those things in their brain. If they stay here, K-8, they’ll know those things in their mind.”Because of this combination of scripture memorization and music education, students are given an immersive educational experience that impacts those attending the service.Carla Kleinschmidt, admissions counselor at St. Paul’s Lutheran School, adds, “The whole thing about Jesus’ birth is the start of everything for us and our life. It hits us that night. There is a feeling that comes over you.”Mrs. Fritz continues, “We’re not just 1200 people in the building, but we’re part of the communion of saints. When you think of it being done all those years, Christmas Eve is a foretaste of heaven–the joy of receiving God’s gifts and his Word.”For St. Paul’s Lutheran School, it’s this tradition that brings together the church, school, and local community, celebrating Christ’s birth in a holiday tradition that has impacted generations of families.