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Remembering the reason
Celebrating the true meaning of Christmas
Members of Bethlehem First United Methodist Church participate as Joseph, Mary and the baby Jesus in a manger scene for the church's annual live nativity in Barrow County. - photo by Lona Panter

With all of the sparkling lights and shiny wrapping paper, it could be easy for some to forget the true reason of the Christmas season

Although some people place the most value on material possessions like gifts, there are others in the community who are striving to make sure that people remember that the season is a time to celebrate Jesus' birth.

On Christmas Eve, Blackshear Place Baptist Church in Flowery Branch, marked the eve of His birth with special services, including baptisms.

"A lot of churches don't observe baptisms on Christmas Eve. I think one of the Bible verses that gets forgotten this time of year is John 3:16 — ‘For God so loved the world, he gave his only son,'" said the Rev. Jeff W. Crook, Blackshear Place pastor.

"God sent his son to us, to be our savior — what greater gift is there than that? A lot of people who have been baptized recently have given their hearts to Christ, so this is a great time to follow through to celebrate how Jesus has changed our lives."

Crook also dedicated his Sunday morning sermons for the entire month to discussing the important characters in the Christmas story — Mary, Joseph, shepherds and of course Jesus.

"Christmas is always a real big time for us," Crook said.

Other area churches have also worked to make sure that people remember the reason for the season.

Bethlehem First United Methodist Church recently invited people to come enjoy their annual, live nativity scene on the town's square in Barrow County. In addition to a real Mary, Joseph and baby Jesus, the nativity also included Three Wise Men and a host of heavenly angels.

For the sixth year in a row, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints in Gainesville has honored the savior's birth by hosting its Festival of the Nativity at the church. Instead of real people, this festival included more than 600 nativity scenes from around the world.

Former educator Lynda Holmes turned decorating her Christmas tree, an activity that could easily have been very commercial, into a learning opportunity for her then 3-year-old grandson.

"I designed a special craft project last year because I wanted to have a pleasant experience with our pre-school grandson while decorating our Christmas tree and talking about the meaning of Christmas," said Holmes, a Flowery Branch resident.

For the project, Holmes collected various plastic lids from things like discarded potato chip cans and coffee containers to cut into circle-shaped foundations for their Christmas ornaments. Next she pre-cut shapes out of her collection of Christmas cards and old, family photos.

Using tape, Holmes and her grandson secured a picture on both sides of the lids. After that, they tied a piece of ribbon to hang the ornaments through a hole that Holmes had punched in the top of each lid.

"We talked about baby Jesus and the reason why we celebrate Christmas. We give gifts at Christmastime because God gave us the gift of his Son first, that's why we do for others," Holmes said.

"He proudly marched over to the Christmas tree, asking me to sing ‘Away in a Manger' numerous times as he placed the ornaments on the tree."

"He really enjoyed it and I had tears of happiness in my eyes. Those moments went far beyond experimenting with ribbon, plastic, paper and tape — we were building memories. I thought that our Christmas tree had never been so magnificent."