For churches, Christmas is not about the man in the red suit

By Charles Hallman

Staff Writer


Christmas this year falls on Sunday. We talked with some of our local pastors and church leaders about their plans to celebrate the holiday and how they thought it might affect their Sunday worship. Most anticipate no change: “We’re having regular Sunday service,” says Deacon Lenora Clark of Zion Baptist Church in Minneapolis. They hope people will remember the true meaning of the holiday.

“We always have our Christmas presentation every year, whether or not Christmas falls on a Sunday, in the honor of Christmas and the birth of Christ,” says Rev. Runney Patterson, Sr., pastor of New Hope Baptist Church in St. Paul. He explains the annual Christmas program “usually centers around the dramatization of Mary receiving the news from the angel that she was going to be blessed to be the mother of the Savior. We have both youth and adults participating in the presentation.”

Wayman A.M.E. Church will hold its annual Sunday School Christmas Pageant during its regular Sunday service, says coordinator Jackie Robertson. “Our young people are in charge of the service on the fourth Sunday of each month. Even though it’s Christmas, our pastor decided that we would not stray from the norm, and the young people would still be in charge. It was much easier to put the Christmas Pageant in the 11 am worship service,” she explains.

The pageant will feature several youngsters “who have worked really hard, putting a lot of emphasis and an extra dramatic flair” to their assigned parts, continues Robertson. “Our teenagers will be doing a special interpretation on ‘The Twelve Days of Christmas.’”

Patterson says he was taken aback when he heard of some churches making changes simply because Christmas falls on Sunday this year. “I’ve heard some talk of other churches rearranging its services or not even having service that Sunday. That’s shocking to me. Although it is a special day, it is still Sunday. We are still having our 10 am services.”

When asked if this might be because to some, perhaps to many, the true meaning of Christmas has been lost, Patterson says, “I think we lose the focus on what Christmas is all about. It is about God giving us the greatest gift — a Savior. It is really not about us, but about Him, but we’ve become so commercialized.”

He says it also bothers him whenever he sees the word Christmas is shortened to Xmas: “People have other agendas now.”

Robertson, a local seminary student, agrees with the pastor. “We’re talking about the man in the red suit and the most expensive packages we can find,” she points out. She would rather see more people “giving the most of ourselves, like the Three Wise Men giving the most that they had, instead of going out to find the very best. It is Christmas, and it is Jesus’ birthday.”

Rev. Michael Gonzales, the pastor of Coppin Chapel A.M.E. Church in Fort Dodge, Iowa, says that he plans to preach a Christmas sermon during his church’s regularly scheduled worship service on Christmas morning. Gonzales, who lives in the Twin Cities, says that his family started last year having a large get-together with relatives on Christmas Eve and “got away from the gift giving.” These types of activities are “what we need to get back to,” he believes.

“When I was in Mississippi,” recalls Patterson, who came to the area seven years ago, “it was a big thing for families getting together, whether it was Easter, Mother’s Day, July Fourth, Thanksgiving or Christmas. They almost were like family reunions.

“I try to tell my church that it’s not just a season of swapping or exchanging,” says Patterson. “It is about the birth of Christ. So I always try to challenge my church the past few years to take on the real spirit of Christmas, helping those who can’t help themselves… Try to find a person or a family that you can be a blessing to and that you can share with. It doesn’t have to be necessarily something material.”

“I just hope that everybody knows that in the midst of all this, Jesus is the reason for the season,” concludes Robertson. “We say that year after year, and here is that one opportunity where we [as Christians] can show that we’re walking the walk and talking the talk. If we’re walking it, we’ll be at somebody’s church on Christmas morning.”


Charles Hallman welcomes reader responses to challman@spokesman-re