Members of Gainesville First United Methodist Church were asked to rekindle their childlike faith at the church’s midday Christmas Eve children’s service.
The Rev. Terry Walton, senior pastor of Gainesville First United Methodist Church, reminded the children who gathered around his feet — as well as their parents in the pews — that Christmas began not with the unwrapping of presents but with the birth of Jesus.
In his sermon "Dreaming of a Childlike Christmas," Walton encouraged the roughly 300 adults at the service to take cues from their children — be excited about Christmas Day. Be overjoyed with the birth of Christ and the celebration of his love.
"I think we do lose a lot of our childlikeness as adults. We don’t mean to," Walton said. "... The whole point of Christmas, the whole point of Jesus, is that God loves you."
Sam Marley, director of music ministries at Gainesville First United Methodist Church, said this year is the second the church has held a children’s service in the afternoon on Christmas Eve. He said with so many young families at the church, he hopes the new service becomes part of families’ Christmas traditions.
Lori Carter, a member of Gainesville First United Methodist Church, said she brought her sons Jake and Hunter to the service for the first time this year. Carter said Walton’s message is one she took to heart.
"I think that’s the way it should be — seeing Christmas through a child’s eyes. The true meaning of Christmas was when Jesus was born," she said.
Marley said the midday service was the first of five held at the church Wednesday. He said last year more than 2,200 people attended the church’s Christmas Eve services.
Just before Walton dismissed the congregation to the tune of "Silent Night," he left them with one thought: "May the love of this season embrace your soul like it embraces the soul of a child. And may our childlike faith blow away our childishness."