Anyone looking for the true meaning of Christmas got a glimpse when a big red tour van pulled up in front of the Cambria County Courthouse in Ebensburg on Dec. 14 offering free hot cocoa, a chance to help neighbors, and an invitation to connect with a faith community.
The van, resembling a giant wrapped gift, is visiting 16 states this month as part of The United Methodist Church's “The True Meaning of Christmas Tour”. It will was the centerpiece of the festivities from noon until 3 p.m. in Ebensburg, which was hit by snow and chilly temperatures. Despite that, the tour crew, District Superintendent Alyce Weaver Dunn, UM Human Services Director Joy Baker and Pastors J.R. Virgin and Matt Scott were able to connect with many who braved the cold to come out.
“We want to offer our community a different type of gift: an opportunity to celebrate what Christmas is all about by engaging in service with neighbors, boosting joy and building relationships with others,” said the Rev. Virgin, pastor of Ebensburg United Methodist Church. “We are also extending an invitation to attend a place of worship or become part of a faith community.”
The Ebensburg Church hosted the come-and-go event outside the Cambria County Courthouse.
United Methodist Human Services received donations of soap, shampoo, toothpaste, toothbrushes, and washcloths to distribute to those in need.
A survey conducted by Pew Research Center in 2013 indicated that the activities that people least liked at Christmas time are the commercialism/materialism, money/expense, and shopping/crowds. What they most look forward to is spending time with family and friends (69%) and religious reflection/church (11%).
“This tour is a unique way for the church to reach out to people who are experiencing loneliness or who want to give back to the community at this significant time of year,” said Dan Krause, chief executive of United Methodist Communications, which is coordinating the month-long expedition. “More than 500 volunteers from local United Methodist churches are partnering with us to make this a multi-state effort.”
The True Meaning of Christmas Tour stops in 21 cities between December 2-24. Follow the tour online at UnwrapChristmas.org and #UnwrapChristmas.