A Merry Christmas for the Movement Marked by Worship, Fellowship, and Service
By Carl Stagner
Apart from Easter, Christmas is the time of year when Church of God congregations across the country and around the world historically pull out all the stops in celebration of the season. This year is no different, especially in a year that welcomed the return of many events and activities canceled by COVID last year. Certainly, the traditional Christmas pageant, dinner, and candlelighting services have stood the test of time. But into the flurry of activity for which the holidays are known rose to a place of prominence an orientation toward the community perhaps not seen only decades ago. A glance at several local churches suggests that a merry Christmas for the Movement is marked by worship, fellowship, and service.
What better way to communicate the gift of salvation available through Jesus Christ than to give away necessary supplies, food, and toys without charge? Though fundraisers certainly have their place (can I get an amen, youth groups headed to IYC?!), a number of congregations in the Church of God have discovered a tangible way to love their communities through giveaways. Many of these churches organize giveaways throughout the year, but there’s something special about a giveaway at Christmas or Thanksgiving when those who cannot afford necessities can still enjoy the holiday they’re hoping for.
One example is Community Church of God in Macon, Georgia. For Thanksgiving, the church hosted a food giveaway; for Christmas, they’ve expanded their efforts to give away Christmas gifts for families. A similar event in the Dayton, Ohio, area is the result of churches partnering to achieve a goal, including Salem Church of God. The Community Table, an organization that “provide[s] school supplies for students, Christmas for families, weekend food for elementary school students, and counseling and assistance for families who may find themselves having trouble meeting the needs of their family,” also hosts a giveaway in “store” format. Families invited based on need visited Salem Church of God and, instead of receiving items chosen for them, enjoyed the privilege of browsing and selecting gifts from a wide variety of items on display.
Out west, the children of Highland Park Community Church in Casper, Wyoming, put into practice the concept of being the hands and feet of Jesus. Parents donated food items, but the children assembled the dinner boxes for distribution.
Riverside, California’s Central Community Christian Fellowship distributed food to neighbors this Christmas season. Among a variety of other projects designed to care for their neighbors, this recurring operation of food distribution—almost every Wednesday in 2021—continues through Christmastime and blesses countless individuals and families with not only food for the body, but also food for the soul.
Other recurring operations proved that, just because everybody’s busy, community service does not have to cease. Altitude Church in Arvada, Colorado, continued serving hamburgers to high school students and praying with them, even into the last week of school before Christmas break. Riverside Community Church of God in Cottage Grove, Oregon, maintains their Community Clothes Closet when they could otherwise take a break themselves. Praise Tabernacle International in Plantation, Florida, keeps conducting drive-by prayer events during this busy time of year—the most recent of which yielded six souls saved!
The Church of God movement knows our heavenly Father is a faithful Provider. More often than not, he goes beyond supplying our needs and gives us abundance. Each of the congregations (including many, many more not mentioned in this article) gives to others because of what Jesus has given to them. Their gifts reflect the greatest gift of all at Christmas. The words of Pastor Eric Denton of Central Community Christian Fellowship surely echo the sentiment of these local churches to their neighbors this season and beyond:
“We’re praying for each one of your families during the holiday season that you will have more than enough.”
Learn more about the Church of God movement at www.JesusIsTheSubject.org.
Feature (top) image: The Christmas Store at Salem Church of God this year.