The reminders that the greatest gift is Jesus

I don’t know when I began to make sense of the birth of Jesus, a fat, jolly ol’ man called Santa Claus and a tree with bright lights, shiny bulbs and gifts wrapped in paper designed just for Christmas under the tree.

I do know that as a child, Dec. 23 was an exciting night, because I knew that there was only one more night of anticipation of what I would get and anxiety over not receiving what I asked Santa for. It seemed that no one ever knew the correct address for the North Pole. But whatever I received was always more than I had.

Christmas is my favorite liturgical holiday. As I got older, some of my favorite things changed. I know that Jesus was not born on Dec. 25, but I still like celebrating his birth. I like giving and receiving gifts, even though sometimes I pretend to not care if I don’t receive at least one gift.

Christmas is an excuse to do something nice that I might not do if it were not for Christmas. It is also a time to cook and enjoy all of the goodies and not feel guilty.

I enjoy the sacred and secular music that warms my heart and reminds me that the greatest gift is that God gave his Son, Jesus, to the world.

— Alberta McCrory, Gaines Chapel AME Chapel, Anniston

Christmas Eve service brings it all home to me

As it is for many people in our country, Christmas is my favorite holiday of the year. I love the decorations, the food, the gifts (both giving and receiving), the parties and the family. But more than anything, I love the Christmas Eve worship service.

I know, I’m a minister, I’m supposed to say that, but it’s still true. This service, held after the sun has set, has always filled me (even as a child) with feelings of peace, gentleness and love.

We sing such hymns as "What Child Is This," "O Holy Night" and "Silent Night," all under the lovely glow of candlelight.

We read all of the scripture verses about the birth of our Savior, and we remember what it is that draws us all to church week after week, year after year. And that is the love of our God who so desperately wanted to see us all in heaven with Him that he became human, born of a mother like you and like I.

He came into this world as a baby and laughed, loved, hungered and suffered just like all of us, but he lived a life without sin and gave himself up as the final, perfect sacrifice in order to create a bridge for all of us into heaven.

The Christmas Eve service brings it all home to me in a way that nothing else can, and without it, all the rest of the Christmas celebrations hold no meaning for me.

If you haven’t been to one, you’ll find that it’s a truly wonderful way to celebrate the birth of our Savior, Jesus Christ.

­— Rev. Laura Hutchinson, First Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)