“I really hope that in the midst of all the busyness and all the festivities — all of which is absolutely wonderful — ... that people will remember the real reason for the season, [which is] the love of God and the incarnation of God in the birth of Christ,” said Lobello, who joined Sam Jones Memorial UMC, 100 W. Church St., in June. “I get afraid sometimes that that gets pushed to the background. I just hope that people will remember that and celebrate that in the midst of everything else.
“[At Sam Jones Memorial UMC] we will do two services on Christmas Eve at 5 and 7. Christmas Eve, particularly, is always one of the highlights of the year and I very much am excited about celebrating it with my new family.”
As Sam Jones Memorial UMC’s congregation is busy celebrating the holiday with a bevy of offerings — a Lessons and Carols Service tonight at 7; worship services on Sundays and Christmas Eve; and the Living Nativity Dec. 19 through 24 from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. on the lawn of the Youth House — St. Luke AME Church, 130 Jones St., and The Church at Liberty Square, 2001 Liberty Square Drive, also are embracing the season with special programming.
“The message of Christmas is always about God’s love,” Ramsey said. “… [It is important to] always keep Christ in the center and keep in the forefront [that] the true meaning of Christmas is God’s love for all humankind.
“[At St. Luke AME], we will be having a Christmas dinner on this Sunday,” he said, adding the 250-member church’s dinner will begin at 12:30 p.m., following today’s worship service. “Our Christmas Program will be on the fourth Sunday at 11 a.m. [During this time of year], I enjoy the Christmas music and I enjoy the lighting of the advent candle.”
While The Church at Liberty Square prepares for its The Gift of Christmas offering today at 8:30 and 10:45 a.m. and Christmas with the Family Dec. 22 at 8:30 and 10:45 a.m., Edwards is looking forward to presenting a message of hope to worshippers.
“We believe the whole reason for Christmas is to give hope and there’s so much hurt and pain and difficulty in our world,” Edwards said. “So we believe that Christ of Christmas is the hope that we’re all looking for. ... [What I enjoy most about our Christmas programs] I think [is] the laughter and the cheer. We have almost 200 people in our music and fine arts department that puts on the Christmas gala. We’ll do it [today]. Hundreds of people will fill our worship center and [I enjoy] just listening to them as they rehearse, as they practice and prepare, and then of course on Sunday, when it all happens.
“Then the next Sunday, we do what we call Christmas with the Family, when all of our congregation — some 1,500 [to] 2,000 — we come together in casual Christmas dress. We bring all the children in and they sit with their family members and [there is] laughter and then again [there] is that word — hope. And you see people, they’re really having a difficult time, but it just seems like [because of] the reason for Christmas, meaning Jesus Christ, for a period of time there all that is set aside and they enjoy not only the Lord but they enjoy each other.”
In remembering favorite Christmas mornings of yesteryear, the three ministers all relayed stories involving their youth or when their children were small. While Ramsey still remembers the joy of receiving a G.I. Joe train set — after wishing for the toy all year and clipping out pictures for his parents — when he was about 10 years old, Lobello’s cherished memories are when his grown children were young.
“They’re all so memorable. It’s such a wonderful time of year,” Lobello said. “I don’t know that I could say a [particular] year, but the ones that stand out in my mind is when my own children were young and kind of the magic of Christmas was just so pervasive in our home — both teaching them about the love of God and the birth of Christ and also along with that the magic of Santa Claus and the joy of the season.”
For Edwards, one of his most memorable holidays transpired when he was about 7 years old.
“We were having a difficult time,” Edwards said. “We’re five children in my family. It was one of those as Dolly Parton says [a] ‘hard candy Christmas.’
“My dad, he worked at a shipyard in Panama City and he made our Christmas presents. So we had homemade Christmas presents and we had oranges and apples and nuts. … We had the most fun. It was just a memorable, memorable Christmas. That’s been a lot of Christmases ago. It was wonderful.”
For more information about the three churches’ offerings, visit www.samjonesumc.org, www.saintlukeame.org or www.libertysq.org. Further details about Christmas-related religious services around the county can be found in The Daily Tribune News’ Family & Living page on Thursday.