Vicar John Turner, who joined Faith Lutheran Church less than a year ago, is looking forward to his first Craig Christmas, and his first Christmas as the head of a church.
"It's when we take time to remember that our Lord Jesus Christ, our savior, came to us ... and that he came to take away our sins," Turner said.
He spent the four Sundays of Advent leading up to Christmas reminding his congregation of the holiday's true meaning.
"During that time, we reflect on the reason he came. He came because we're sinners. He came to save us from those sins," Turner said. "The road to the cross begins right there in the manger."
But in a world saturated with advertising for the newest technology and latest toy, do Americans remember the true meaning of Christmas?
"As I watch the commercials on television and hear ads on the radio, if that was what I was basing it on, I would say, 'No, absolutely not,'" Turner said. "There's joy in the giving and the gifts. And that's great. That's not wrong. But it takes our eyes off of what's really going on."
John Graler, First Christian Church's youth minister, said he reminds the teens in his youth group of the same message.
"We live in a very materialistic society," Graler said. "That's the first thing we hear about, 'What can we get?' Christmas is a time when a lot of folks talk about what they want for themselves."
But Graler said what he and his youth group can do for others is more important.
Inevitably, churches are busier on holidays more than any other time of year, Turner said.
"Throughout my lifetime, I've always seen a surge in attendance around Christmas, as we do with Easter. And that's a good thing," Turner said.
But Turner said he will treat holiday services the same way he would any other one -- he will proclaim the Gospel at the Christmas service.
"Every Sunday is a celebration of Easter. Every Sunday is a celebration of Christmas," Turner said.
And the same goes for holiday mission work, he said.
"It's every day," Turner said. "It's part of our existence as Christians, that we don't surge, that we remain diligent and constant."
Graler said First Christian takes the increased attendance as an avenue to educate those who may not know the full Christmas story.
"A lot of people really don't have a clue," Graler said. "We aim toward those folks who may not hear (the Christmas story) very often."
Turner said he is excited for Christmas and hopes area residents can see past the battery-operated toy under the tree to the real message of the holiday season.
"Christmas is that time when we pause to reflect that God loves us so much that he sent his son to take on all of our sins, to die for us," Turner said. "And there's sadness in death, but there's also joy that we're set free from sin."
Graler said that's the message he hopes to convey this season as well.
"My real hope is that people remember God and are thankful to him for the greatest gift of all. He lived among us and died for us," Graler said. "That's what Christmas is really about, and we hope people will remember that."
Michelle Perry can be reached at 824-7031, ext. 213, or firstname.lastname@example.org.