Fostering Christmas spirituality

Belief: Amid the commercialism of the season, area churches are seeking to promote the true meaning of the holiday.

December 17, 2004|By Tawanda W. Johnson | Tawanda W. Johnson,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

In the midst of the hustle and bustle of the Christmas season, local churches are featuring sermons, concerts and outreach activities to promote the real meaning of the holiday - the birth of Jesus Christ.

At St. Louis parish in Clarksville, the largest Roman Catholic church in Howard County, 10 Masses will be celebrated on Christmas Eve and four on Christmas Day.

Children who attend the parish's religious education program will perform a Nativity play - the story of Jesus' birth in Bethlehem - at 4 p.m. and 6 p.m. Christmas Eve.

"In all of these, we are celebrating looking at who the child was," said Monsignor Joseph L. Luca, pastor of the church. "Jesus means God will save his people, and Christ means the anointed one."

He added, "When you take in all of these [meanings], you can't help but to celebrate the real meaning."

According to the Gospel of Luke, Jesus was born of a virgin named Mary. Mary and Joseph could find no room at an inn after traveling to Bethlehem to pay taxes, so Jesus was born in a manger. Angels appeared to shepherds in nearby fields and proclaimed that a savior had been born.

Because Christmas has become associated with so much commercialism, pastors say, it is important that people comprehend the importance of Jesus' birth - that God sent him to save the world from its sins.

At the Chinese Bible Church of Howard County, the Rev. Mark Meyer, English pastor of the church, said it connects people to the real meaning of Christmas by explaining biblical passages that prophesy about the birth of Christ.

"Ever since the fall of mankind with Adam and Eve, God has sent prophets ... to tell of our savior," Meyer said.

Meyer noted Micah 5:7 and Isaiah 7:14, which state that Jesus will be born in Bethlehem and of a virgin, respectively.

In addition to preaching about specific biblical passages, Meyer said the church is holding a Christmas Eve dinner that will feature members of the church explaining the birth of Christ. The event begins at 6:30 p.m., he said.

The Rev. Mark Norman, pastor of Grace Community Church in Columbia, said his church embarked on a three-week preaching series during the first week of December to promote the authentic meaning of Christmas.

"It's a fresh look at an old message ... that God's son is the savior," he said.

Norman said the church has six services planned for Christmas Eve.

"We want to focus on God's gift to us rather than the gifts we will be getting," he said.

And, to that end, he said the church is involved in toy and food drives that benefit the needy.

"We want to spread some of the privilege and wealth we have," Norman added.

"Let It Go!, Let It Grow!, Let it Glow!" is the title of a 7:30 p.m. Christmas Eve service to be offered by Christ Lutheran Church at Owen Brown Community Center in Columbia.

"We want you to let go of all the unhealthy notions of Christmas, that you have to have a perfect Christmas, because that's not what Christmas is all about," said the Rev. Jeff Samelson, pastor of the church.

"We want you to take the true meaning into your heart and share it; don't keep it yourself."

Samelson said the church is sponsoring a Christmas party from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. tomorrow at the River Hill meeting room, 6330 Trotter Road, in Clarksville.

The party's purpose is to reach out to children and families outside the congregation. He said that the gathering will provide an opportunity for children to understand why Christmas is celebrated and not to focus on material things such as "the latest toy this year."

"It celebrates the gifts God gave us at Christmas," Samelson said.

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