As shoppers rush from store to store to find perfect last-minute gifts, pastors say an important part of their job this holiday season is to remind parishioners what the season is really about.
"There is certainly going to be a temptation for people to get caught up in the stuff instead of the savior," said the Rev. Rod Compton of Calvary Baptist Church. "We need to focus on the giving of ourselves instead of the getting."
The Rev. Phillip Gibson of Friendship United Methodist Church said he conveys that message plainly.
He encourages Christians to remember Christmas is the celebration of the birth of Christ. But he also tells them to look forward to Jesus' return.
"We need to remember the birth of that one child changed humankind and the whole world," Gibson said. "We need to look forward to the adult Jesus coming again."
Compton said he has a larger audience this time of year than other Sundays. His Christmas Eve service attendance is bigger than usual, so he sees some new faces during the holidays.
Gibson agreed Christmas and Easter are his most attended services, however, the church is not having a Christmas Day service this year.
Gibson has found his parishioners would prefer to be home spending time with their families. So he expects a Christmas Eve crowd.
He sees his role as inspiration for the congregation.
"I'm there to hopefully set a mode by which folks can come closer to God, rejoice and ponder about life," Gibson said.
Part of that leadership in----cludes urging church members to help others in the community.
This year, Friendship Meth--odist members sent packages to military personnel serving overseas.
Calvary Baptist parishioners prepared Christmas baskets for low-income families and gave presents to residents of Sandrock Ridge Care & Rehab.
Compton also scheduled a Lord's supper for Saturday evening, meant to symbolize Jesus' last dinner with his disciples. The dinner was meant to remind his congregation of Christmas' true message.
He said he doesn't have a hard time teaching the message of Christmas. Many children already understand the real meaning. Not all of them are obsessed with presents under the tree.
"I think it depends on the family you're brought up in," Compton said. "A lot of these kids enjoy Christmas and what it really means."
Michelle Perry can be reached at 824-7031, ext. 209, or firstname.lastname@example.org.