What’s the true meaning of Christmas? Christmas celebrates closeness. It celebrates God coming close to humans in the form of Baby Jesus. It celebrates families and friends coming close together.
“The True Meaning of Christmas Tour” will be traveling through 21 cities in 16 states, and recently included two stops in Louisiana - Shreveport and Baton Rouge.
Organizers were looking to spread and cheer and invite others to experience the real meaning of Christmas through local United Methodist churches. Free hot cocoa was handed out and organizers hope to drum up support for various local church mission and outreach initiatives.
The tour is an extension of the denomination’s advertising campaign, an effort to connect people searching for community and deeper meaning in life with a local United Methodist church.
Shreveport/Bossier area United Methodist churches hosted the come-and-go event on December 4 from 4 until 8 p.m. at the Louisiana Boardwalk Outlets near the Osh Kosh store, located at 540 Boardwalk Blvd.
“We are grateful for the opportunity to celebrate this special season in the Shreveport community by forging deeper connections among neighbors and coming together to give back to those in need,” said the Rev. Dr. Wybra Price, II, Shreveport district superintendent and missional strategist for the Louisiana Annual Conference of The United Methodist Church. “We’ll also be offering warm invitations to worship experiences and other special events at area United Methodist churches.”
There was also be a collection of socks to benefit local individuals in need this winter.
Baton Rouge-area United Methodist Churches hosted the come-and-go event at Manship Theater, located at 100 Lafayette Street, on December 5 from 5 until 9 p.m., during “Cool Winter Nights & Hot Jazz!” The easy-to-find, bedecked tour truck was the centerpiece of festivities.
“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. Ken Irby, district superintendent of the Baton Rouge District of The United Methodist Church. “We are also extending an invitation to attend a place of worship or become part of a faith community.”
There was a collection of canned meats, soups, vegetables, spaghetti sauce, peanut butter and jelly for local hungry families served by the Southeast Ministries Association.
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 will stop in 21 cities, December 2-24. Follow the tour online at UnwrapChristmas.org and #UnwrapChristmas.
You have an opportunity to participate, no matter where you are! Extend invitations to your church’s Christmas events and worship services by hosting a hot cocoa fellowship event. Bring the true meaning of Christmas to a park, shopping center, holiday market or parade route near you by using a how-to instruction sheet and tour-branded stickers for your hot cocoa cups.
Use #UnwrapChristmas when you post photos of your hot cocoa outreach efforts, and follow along on our official tour website during Advent!
Tour dates and locations:
Dec. 2: Waco, Texas
Dec. 3: Dallas, Texas
Dec. 4: Shreveport, Louisiana
Dec. 5: Baton Rouge, Louisiana
Dec. 6: Jackson, Mississippi
Dec. 7: Little Rock, Arkansas
Dec. 8: Memphis, Tennessee
Dec. 10: Champaign, Illinois
Dec. 11: Indianapolis, Indiana
Dec. 12: Columbus, Ohio
Dec. 13: Charleston, West Virginia
Dec. 14: Johnstown/Ebensburg, Pennsylvania
Dec. 15: Washington, D.C.
Dec. 16: Virginia Beach, Virginia
Dec. 17: Greenville, North Carolina
Dec. 19: Charleston, South Carolina
Dec. 20: Columbia, South Carolina
Dec. 21: Knoxville, Tennessee
Dec. 22: Atlanta, Georgia
Dec. 23: Huntsville, Alabama