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Christmas clergy: 'Christmas means'

By Jennifer Lee Preyss
Dec. 23, 2011 at 6:23 a.m.


Christmas is celebrated in more than 160 countries around the world. Many who take part are Christians, celebrating the birth of Jesus, the Christ.

To celebrate the divine birthday, Christians erect Christmas trees, adorn their homes with lights and wreaths, and attend and participate in church functions organized by ministerial leaders.

But what about the ministers themselves? How do they celebrate the Lord's birth, and what makes Christmas special for them? Here's what nine area clergy had to say about why they enjoy Christmas.

The Rev. Jim Graff

Age: 51

Church: Faith Family Church, Victoria

Congregation size: 4,000

Denomination: Interdenominational

Years in ministry: 25

CHRISTMAS MEANS:

To me, Christmas is about making memories with family and celebrating faith in practical ways. Two especially memorable Christmases were when it snowed in 2004, and when my wife, Tamara, and I brought our dog Smokie home one Christmas Eve when our kids were small. Family traditions include attending our Christmas Eve service, then coming home to read the Christmas story and sleep in front of the fireplace (after consuming way too much food). We also participate in the Toys for Tots drive at church and enjoy giving to families in our area who need help to celebrate the season.

The Rev. Amy Danchik

Age: 29

Church: Christ the Victor Lutheran Church, Victoria

Congregation size: 200

Denomination: Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

Years in Ministry: 3

CHRISTMAS MEANS:

The beginning of John's Gospel talks about God's light entering the world. At our Christmas Eve services, we get to live that out, in a way. Nighttime and darkness are scary for many, and even dangerous for some. Yet at this service, we light candles and break into the night with songs of joy; defying the darkness. My favorite part is when we all light our candles, turn off the lights, and sing "Silent Night." Watching the faces of my church family glowing with peace, instills in me the sense of hope of what the coming of Christ is about.

The Rev. Stan De Boe

Age: 55

Church: Our Lady of Sorrows Catholic Church/Santisima Trinidad, Victoria

Congregation Size: 2,000 families

Denomination: Roman Catholic

Years in Ministry: 28

CHRISTMAS MEANS:

The Masses are over; the parishioners are gathered with family and friends; the Trinitarian community has finished cleaning after the dinner. While "Silent Night" has been sung many times in English and Spanish, it has been anything but a silent night or a calm day. But now, with everything done, I sit back, close my eyes and let the busy-ness of the day give way to the peace of an evening to rejoice in the birth of Christ in my heart once again because I had been visited by hosts of angels who have been wishing me "Merry Christmas" and "Feliz Navidad."

The Rev. Bard Letsinger

Age: 42

Church: Renegade Church, Victoria

Congregation Size: 150

Denomination: Non-denominational

Years in Ministry: 11

CHRISTMAS MEANS:

Christmas is about family. We put up the tree as a family, decorate the yard as a family. The week of Christmas, we do dinner at IHOP, then drive to Cuero to look at the lights as a family. Christmas Eve is spent with our church family. Christmas morning after breakfast, we open our first gift by reading Luke 2:1-20 about how a new family spent the first Christmas - God's greatest gift to us. Too often, Christmas becomes an event, or a date. Family, be it my own, or our church family, keeps me grounded and reminds me Christmas is about people and God's love for all of them.

The Rev. David King

Age: 59

Church: John Wesley United Methodist Church, Victoria

Congregation Size: 250

Denomination: United Methodist Church

Years in Ministry: 25

CHRISTMAS MEANS:

To me, Christmas is like the North Star - It helps orient me to life and faith. And there is one word that is my North Star and helps me get my bearings, and that word is Immanuel, meaning "God with us." At the heart of our faith is the belief that God is with us, and for us. Look at the many times in our Scriptures where God said in essence, "Don't be afraid, because I am with you." Every year, Christmas, the coming of Jesus, reaffirms this truth for my life. It's a truth I live by every day of the year.

The Rev. Tim Williams

Age: 52

Church: Northside Baptist Church, Victoria

Congregation Size: 2,000

Denomination: Baptist

Years in Ministry: 22

CHRISTMAS MEANS:

Each year my wife, Judith, makes a "Christmas Chain." It is alternating red and green strips of paper stapled together in loops to form a chain. On each one of the loops, she writes down an activity for us to do that day to celebrate Christmas. It may be hot chocolate by the tree, a special treat to eat, a family tea party by candle light or a time to pray together. It really helps us as a family to celebrate the season and spend time together.

The Rev. Jonathan M. Carmona

Age: 26

Church: Jerusalem Family Praise Center, Victoria

Congregation Size: 100-150

Denomination: Pentecostal

Years in Ministry: 12

CHRISTMAS MEANS:

The holiday season has always been one of my favorite times of the year. Though it may not be historically accurate in the time of year of the birth of Christ, it is a symbolic holiday of the precious gift God gave to us. During this time of the year, I like to reflect on the many blessings God has provided for me, how every gift from above is much more than I deserve and how no matter the scene, his glory always shines through - just as it did in that manger in Bethlehem.

The Rev. Dimitri Cozby

Age: 64

Church: All Saints Orthodox Church, Victoria

Congregation Size: 30

Denomination: Orthodox Church in America

Years in Ministry: 38

CHRISTMAS MEANS:

My wife has a button she likes to wear this time of year. It reads, "Christmas is a birthday." Amid all the preparations for our personal and parish celebration, I'm easily distracted from the central event, the Christ child's birth. I'm reminded that I must become again like a child. I need to renew a child's delight and appreciation of my Lord's many blessings - my family, my parish, my opportunities to be of service to others, the joy of sharing with others the good news of the Savior's love. Christmas is his birthday, and should be mine too.

The Rev. Montari Morrison

Age: 29

Church: Greater Mt. Calvary Baptist Church, Victoria

Congregation Size: 75

Denomination: Baptist

Years in Ministry: 3

CHRISTMAS MEANS:

In my daily occupation, I counsel those who battle substance abuse and need psychiatric help. Today, I had a conversation with one of the male residents, and he was unusually excited. Upon listening to him I learned that he had just gotten off of the phone with his daughter - who he hadn't heard from in 30 years - and was invited to join her for Christmas. For years, he thought she would never allow him back in her life. It caused him to hate himself, hate others. Now he is excited about his new chance to make it right. That's Christmas to me. It's a time to thank Jesus for giving us another chance. A chance to look at our priorities, and a time to forgive. Merry Christmas, everyone.

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