Before coming to Epworth Children’s Home, most of the children missed out on the typical Christmas traditions of family dinners, decorating trees, gift-giving, Santa Claus and the feelings of anticipation and excitement on Christmas Eve. They also missed out on hearing about the manger, cattle, angels and shepherds. They never heard the story of peace and joy brought to us through our Savior’s birth.
While many of Epworth’s generous staff, donors and volunteers, help provide gifts and host special events, they also strive to make sure the children hear and celebrate the true meaning of Christmas. “Some of the children at Epworth have never heard the Christmas story before. They only know about Santa and reindeer,” said the Rev. Meg Cook, Epworth’s campus pastor. “When children are here, we want to make sure they not only hear the Christmas story, but that they have the opportunity to learn and understand the Good News of our Savior’s birth in their own lives.”
Beginning with Advent, Pastor Meg leads a sermon series on the Advent wreath to introduce it to children and teach them its meaning. She uses the children’s sermon time to introduce some of Jesus’ family members. In Sunday School, the children use special Christmas curricula, with themes like “UnFrozen” (an adaption from the popular Disney movie). Additionally, each of the 10 cottages on campus receives a hand-made Advent calendar that reveals a new scripture each day leading up to Christmas.
In addition to learning about Advent and the story of Christ’s birth, there are special events on campus. On the first Sunday in December, the campus gathered at Epworth Memorial United Methodist Church and the youngest children presented the annual Christmas play. Local volunteers organize and direct the annual program. On this evening, the church is always filled with the older children, staff members, mentors and cottage partners, as well as some family members of the children.
On the Saturday before Christmas, the Epworth choir and a few other local choirs will present a Christmas Extravaganza, a soulful and joyous Christmas choral performance. The Epworth choir, under the direction of Ms. Destiny Moore, a Life Skills Specialist in Epworth’s Dantzler cottage, provides a creative and meaningful outlet for the children at Epworth.
Like churches around the globe, Epworth’s Christmas celebration will climax on the evening of Christmas Eve. At 5:ooPM worship for the younger children will tell the Christmas story, sing Christmas carols and be reminded that Christmas morning is a celebration of Jesus’ birthday. Then at 11:00PM, a more traditional service for the older children will include scripture readings, guitar and candles before ending at midnight to usher in Christmas morning.
“We know that special gift giving and magical stories and characters like Santa Claus are part of what makes Christmas special for children everywhere, including here at Epworth,” said Rev. John Holler, President of Epworth. “And while we make sure every child at Epworth has a memorable Christmas morning, the task we take most seriously is that every child hears and has the opportunity to understand the true meaning of Christmas—the birth of Jesus Christ.”