After 4-hour drive from our last stop, we found ourselves in a town right near the Mississippi – Alabama state line: Columbus, Mississippi. The tour team was met with a very warm welcome in “The Friendly City”. Something about small towns always makes me feel so loved and welcomed.
Since the weather was nearing the 30’s this evening, our hot cocoa hosts decided to go full postal, and deliver cocoa to each and every storefront on Main Street. It was a beautiful sight to see folks who weren’t quite off work yet able to partake in the fellowship outside.
In the Bible, we know that Jesus’ life was centered fellowship. As a newborn baby He was already gathering people from far away lands and diverse backgrounds to a single place where they could all partake in the miracle of His birth. He invited people to the Kingdom of God, a space where (and when) all are truly equal and experiencing grace. The Kingdom of God can definitely be experienced in Columbus, MS. So many genuinely kind people call this town their home, and our team was sad to say “goodbye.” Our volunteers were a blessing because they demonstrated intentional kindness to extend a season’s greeting in the Leadership Plaza. Even if the air was chilly, the hearts of our volunteers and guests were warmed with love and acceptance.
Thank you so much to everyone at First Columbus United Methodist Church who made this event the talk of the town.
Christmas was not given to us to be a burden. The advent of Christ’s birth was initially proclaimed using words like joy and peace. That Christmas has become something that makes many of us tense up in the shoulders is a relatively modern development.
I thought about that first Christmas night quite a bit while we handed out cocoa and joy in Baltimore on November 29. Continue Reading
We’ve been conditioned to be skeptical of free. That’s conditioning is probably the biggest barrier we face in dong events on the True Meaning of Christmas Tour. Nobody really seems bothered by our Christmas imagery or music. They aren’t turned off by our blessings of “merry Christmas!” People are simply weirded out that we want to give them hot cocoa.
There has to be a catch, right? Continue Reading
When does Christmastime start for you? We’ve all experienced that in the commercial world, the Christmas season starts the day after Halloween. In the music universe, the Christmas season starts the day after Thanksgiving–when some radio stations switch to Christmas programming.
When does it start for you? When does the Christmas spirit become real for you? When do you allow yourself to get in the Christmas mood?
What’s the true meaning of Christmas? The question has been asked in many ways for many years. We certainly understand that Christmas is about more than unwrapping presents, decorating trees, hanging lights, or eating large meals. We hear the voices of children expressing that Christmas is something more. We sense there is something deeper to this special holiday.
Christmas is about closeness. It’s a time when families, friends, and loved ones — even those we tend to hold at a distance much of the year — come close together to celebrate God coming close to humans in the form of Baby Jesus. It’s a time to connect with people in special ways, and to discover a feeling of belonging. We hope you’ll join us at a “True Meaning of Christmas” event near you as we celebrate the love and joy of togetherness this glorious season.
The United Methodist Church is hitting the road this December to provide a sense of closeness. Our True Meaning of Christmas Tour is coming to 21 cities across 16 states over the course of 23 days. At each stop, we’re offering the chance for people to come close together and unwrap the true meaning of Christmas.
We’re looking forward to sharing smiles and conversations with a lot of people. We hope to share a lot of cups of hot cocoa. And we plan on drawing people together by doing good for one another.
We’d love for you to be a part of it! As we come to a city near you, join us for some hot cocoa. We’ll also be accepting donations for local groups aiming to help others have a good Christmas.
The full tour schedule is below. Visit our map for specific location details. Help us #UnwrapChristmas!
- Nov. 25: Fairview Heights, IL We’ll be at St. Clair Square!
- Nov. 26: Columbus, OH At the pavilion at North Market
- Nov. 28: Camp Hill, PA At the Capital City Mall
- Nov. 29: Baltimore, MD On the promenade near the ice rink at Inner Harbor
- Dec. 2: Roswell, GA At Heart of Roswell Park
- Dec. 4: Columbus, MS At Leadership Plaza in downtown Columbus
- Dec. 6: Bossier City, LA At the Louisiana Boardwalk Outlets
- Dec. 10: Phoenix, AZ At Kierland Commons
- Dec. 12: Los Angeles, CA At Pershing Square Holiday Ice Rink
- Dec. 14: West Valley City, UT At Rancho Market, 2470 S Redwood Rd
- Dec. 17: Kansas City, MO At Frank A. Theis Park across from the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art
In addition to tour stops where the truck will be on-hand, United Methodist congregations in additional locations across the U.S. will host hot cocoa fellowship events at their churches.
It’s not over. Sure, the Tour has concluded. We’ve gone back to our homes. The truck will be repurposed for something else. December 25th has passed.
BUT CHRISTMAS ISN’T OVER.
Our Tour stop in Nashville-Brentwood, Tennessee, coincided with collections for Roundup for Nolensville and the Shayne Elementary School feeding program. I wish I could tell you how many families were provided for that day. It was a lot. We filled a U-Haul truck and several cars with donations. The generosity was moving.
Even more moving was the joy inspired by the acts of generosity. The people giving were giddy to give. But as I write this (two days later), the goods collected are being moved into the hands of those who need them. The joy of the moment isn’t over. It’s still going… it may even be snowballing.
I think that’s what Christmas is meant to do. We weren’t given the gift of God’s presence at the first Christmas in order to have a holiday that would inspire people once a year. We are to be perpetually inspired to acts of goodness and to continually show concern for one another.
Maybe that thought hits to the heart of the meaning of Christmas for you, too. Christmas isn’t a date on the calendar, or even an event. Christmas is a state of being. It is God with us in compassion, generosity, and concern. Christmas means we share compassion, generosity, and concern with each other.
May that experience not end.
Thanks to all who made our final stop in Nashville so memorable! Our volunteers from The Village Church, Home Church, and United Methodist Communications braved dropping temps to work in generosity. Max, Dale, and the team from Street Factory Media put in long hours to make all of our stops possible. We are forever grateful to all who shared this experience with us!