Kelly and Kyle Tarry portray Mary and Joseph in a live version of the Nativity during the fifth annual Christmas tree lighting ceremony at Strawberry Acre Park in Holland, Ohio. Area ministers, like their parishioners, spend time on Christmas with family members.
THE BLADE/ZACK CONKLE
What do ministers think about Christmas? For many, it’s a busy time when they’re putting major worship services together. But take the organizing aspect away and their sacred feelings are much like those of the people in the pews. The focus is mainly on celebrating the birth of Jesus. For this story, The Blade asked 12 ministers about their Christmas thoughts and what they’ll be doing on Tuesday morning.
The Rev. Howard Abts
Interim pastor, Bethlehem Lutheran Church, 106 W. Plumer St., Toledo.
Services: Dec. 23, 10:15 a.m.; Dec. 24, 6 p.m.
What does Christmas mean to you personally? It means that we move from talking about God or thinking about God to encountering God — God appears in person. I have not encountered God face to face, but human beings have. In the person of Jesus, God spent about 30 years in close contact with human beings. The reason for his coming was to reconcile the human race to himself, and God came among us knowing that our response was going to be to reject God in the most emphatic way we knew how — and then God used that expression of rejection, the cross, as the means of restoring us to friendship with God.
What will you be doing on Christmas morning? I will be delighting in two of my sons, a daughter-in-law, and two of my grandchildren being at home with [my wife and me], and taking time out from that to delight with members of the congregation the remembrance of God’s appearing among us.
The Rev. Derek Arnold
Pastor, Bethlehem Baptist Church, 1430 Bancroft St., Toledo.
Service: Dec. 23, 9 a.m.
What does Christmas mean to you personally? Personally, Christmas means the coming of Christ to us in human form, and we take the time to recognize this birth and the purpose of his birth. I see Christmas season as a time where we celebrate the birth of the Savior and in his birth we don’t forget others who are less fortunate than us when it comes to giving.
What will you be doing on Christmas morning? My wife and I will begin the day in prayer and in thanksgiving for the holiday. Then we will share whatever gifts that we have with family members, and then we will [have] fellowship in terms of family dinners and things of that nature.
The Rev. Arthur J. Battle
Pastor, Gethsemane Christian Discipleship Church, meets at Ramada Toledo Conference Center, 3536 Secor Rd., Toledo.
Service: Dec. 23, 10:15 a.m.
What does Christmas mean to you personally? The birthday of Jesus, so I guess in simple terms that’s my focus.
What will you be doing on Christmas morning? Praying with my family, thanking God for us being together and for the opportunity to go to our church to worship and to hang out with our church family and to celebrate Christ.
The Rev. Martin Billmeier
Pastor, St. Lucas Lutheran Church, 745 Walbridge Ave., Toledo.
Services: Dec. 22, 4 p.m.; Dec. 23, 8 a.m. and 10:30 a.m.; Dec. 24, 7 p.m. and 11 p.m.; Dec. 25, 10 a.m.
What does Christmas mean to you personally? Well, to me personally, I guess first and foremost it’s the celebration of the birth of Jesus, who is the center of our faith and God’s greatest gift to us.
What will you be doing on Christmas morning? I’ll be getting up and coming to Lessons and Carols, getting ready to lead another worship service, but I love doing that. Christmas and Easter are the two main events for us Christians, my favorite times of the year.
The Rev. Aristotle W. Damaskos
Dean, Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Cathedral, 740 Superior St., Toledo.
Services: Dec. 23, 9 and 10 a.m.; Dec. 24, 5:30 p.m.; Dec. 25: 9:30 and 10:15 a.m.
What does Christmas mean to you personally? For me it’s a time of family experiencing God’s love and forgiveness, a time to reconcile, a time for peacemakers, a time to transform our lives by surrendering ourselves to the gospel.
What will you be doing on Christmas morning? We will open our presents, of course, but I will also be in church celebrating the liturgy.
The Rev. Chad Gilligan
Lead Pastor, Calvary Church, which meets at its new location, 1360 Conant St., Maumee.
Services: Dec. 23, 5 p.m. and 7 p.m.; Dec. 24, 5 p.m. and 7 p.m.
What does Christmas mean to you personally? Probably first and foremost it’s the day that we recognize the birth of Jesus, and both historically and personally His incarnation is what changed this world and my life. On the family side, it’s a great time to celebrate with my kids, my mom, my wife’s parents. We can stop and slow down in a way like you don’t any other time of the year.
What will you be doing on Christmas morning? Opening some presents around the Christmas tree and enjoying a nice breakfast with my family.
The Rev. Elizabeth Hoster
Rector, Trinity Episcopal Church, One Trinity Plaza (316 Adams St.), Toledo.
Services: Dec. 23, 8:30 and 10:30 a.m.; Dec. 24, 5:30,10:30, and 11 p.m.
What does Christmas mean to you personally? It gives me faith to look for hope when there seems to be no hope — especially when it seems like there is no hope.
What will you yourself be doing on Christmas morning? I will have had a lovely feast of song and of word and all of that on Christmas Eve, and I will be blessing Christ and thanking God in the quiet. Our Christmas Eve worship service stretches past midnight, so we say that in the morning you celebrate the incarnation with your loved ones.
The Rev. Lynn Kerr
Minister, Maumee Valley Unitarian Universalist Congregation, 20189 N. Dixie Hwy., Bowling Green.
Services: Dec. 23, 11 a.m.; Dec. 24, 5 p.m.
What does Christmas mean to you personally? I celebrate Christmas as a time for family to get together. The whole family on my husband’s side, we all make it a point to gather together and we all do it every year. It’s a time that’s considered sacred to them; for me, it's a time to remember people we love and people we’ve lost and to remember how grateful we are for the life that we have. And yes, we love watching our child get gifts that surprise him and delight him so that he knows how much we love him.
What will you be doing on Christmas morning? We'll be watching my son opening a couple of presents and then we’ll be packing up the car and heading down to Bellefontaine to spend a couple of days with my in-laws.
Msgr. Willam J. Kubecki
Rector, Our Lady of the Most Holy Rosary Cathedral Parish, 2535 Collingwood Blvd., Toledo.
Services: Dec. 22, 8 a.m. and 4 p.m.; Dec. 23, 10 a.m.; Dec. 24, 4 and 11 p.m.; Dec. 25, 10 a.m.
What does Christmas mean to you personally? Always it’s the birth date of Jesus, and we celebrate that as a family by going to church, followed by a family celebration and then essentially an extended family celebration.
What will you be doing on Christmas morning? The first thing I will do on Christmas morning is to say Mass at the cathedral, then in the early afternoon I will be with my family — brothers and sister and their kids and my mom and dad, and they’re all here in the Toledo area.
The Rev. Pat McKinstry
Senior pastor, The Worship Center, 2204 Collingwood Blvd., Toledo.
Service: Dec. 23, 11 a.m.
What does Christmas mean to you personally? Number one, of course, being a minister, Christ is the reason for the season. The second is because it’s family time.
What will you be doing on Christmas morning? I get a chance to relax in New York City.
The Rev. Lee Powell
Senior pastor, CedarCreek Church, 29129 Lime City Rd., Perrysburg; 2150 S. Byrne Rd., Toledo; 2600 W. Sylvania Ave., Toledo; and 6950 Whitehouse Square Blvd., Whitehouse.
Services: Dec. 22, 3:30, 5:15, and 7 p.m.; Dec. 23, 9 and 10:45 a.m. and 12:30 p.m.; Dec. 24, 2, 4, 6, and 8 p.m.
What does Christmas mean to you personally? Personally, it means the announcement of the Savior, and the possibility of being reconciled to God through his son.
What will you be doing on Christmas morning? We will be opening presents with our grandchildren and our adult children after we read the Christmas story.
The Rev. Mary Sullivan
Pastor, St. Paul's United Methodist Church, 1201 Madison Ave., Toledo.
Services: Dec. 23, 10 a.m.; Dec. 24, 7 p.m.
What does Christmas mean to you personally? It's really about family, not just immediate family. It’s that understanding we’re all connected through God’s love, and that is connected to the birth of Christ. And during this season we can forget that and focus on the larger picture.
What will you be doing on Christmas morning? My husband and I will get prepared to go to my mother’s home in Piketon in southern Ohio.