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Message spans the ages
11Just as they have for years before, and as did the ministers who preceded them, they are reminding their congregations that the displays of love and caring that are represented in the exchange of presents at Christmas are rooted in another gift Christians received long ago.

"We're trying to celebrate Christmas in the spirit of Jesus' love and spirit of giving," said the Rev. James Edwards pastor of Zion Rock Baptist Church in Brunswick. "It's not about the presents. It's about spending time with your family and sharing with others."

It's good to shop and to prepare meals for the family, but it's not the first priority, he said. Christmas isn't in greeting cards and wrapping paper, but the people with whom it is shared.

"It's love and giving and sharing," Edwards said.

By people celebrating in God's grace and sharing their fortune with others less fortunate, they give and receive an unexpected gift, Edwards said. "You receive such gratification when you give to others, and that's the spirit of celebrating," Edwards said.

Especially in the shadow of recent local and national tragedies, Christmas is a time to look to the light of Jesus' birth, ministers say.

"Evil will come and go, and it's through people who aren't followers of good," Edwards said. "We need to come back this Christmas and show love for our fellow person."

Focusing on what is important will help bring good into the world.

"The angel Gabriel said to Mary, 'Through God, nothing is impossible,'" Edwards said. "If we go along with that, we'll see it materialize."

The Rev. Bob Brearley, pastor of St. Simons Presbyterian Church, says it is important to know that even in hard times, even through all of the bad news, God loves people now and forever.

"I think now we have heavy hearts and the season seems to be dark," Brearley said. "There is joy and peace in the world, and sometimes the world can't see it. Christmas is a time to participate and taste the joy of God."

That is why many people may feel the call to worship this year.

"I think we're all in need of taking time to appreciate each other, to remind us what we're chasing and what we're missing," Brearley said. "We need to be together and get together and remember God is with us."

That is the message Heartland Hospice chaplain the Rev. Frazier Green is carrying with him this season.

"I find that this is a season of hope," said Green, who is rector of St. Athanasius Episcopal Church in Brunswick. "At Christmas we're being given this great gift in Christ and at this time, people need this hope."

Remembering what to be thankful for and gathering together in light will help those needing an extra dose of hope this year, he said. "Christmas is a wonderful season. It's so bright and festive, and we know that we're loved and cared for," Green said.

Even in times of tragedy and uncertainty about jobs and finances, there is hope, Green said.

"That gives me hope and encouragement, that God was so concerned with us he sent us his precious gift that keeps giving," Green said. "When we go back to that source of hope, we realize that it lasts all year long."

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