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article imageChristians in Findlay, Ohio, celebrate Christmas Special

By Mike White     Dec 23, 2013 in World
Findlay - Christians in Findlay, Ohio, are preparing to celebrate Christmas this holiday season, along with believers around the world. Some are handing gospel tracts to store clerks, feeding the hungry and sharing the message of the Bible with prisoners.
Four Christians from one church in Findlay, Ohio, were interviewed by Digital Journal to find out what Christmas means to them, how they are celebrating and if they have any traditions they follow to celebrate the season. Findlay is the county seat of Hancock County, Ohio, has about 40,000 residents and is a little more than 40 miles south of Toledo, Ohio. While one of those interviewed is a pastor, none of the others is involved in professional ministry. All take their faith seriously, however, and are involved in sharing their faith through various kinds of ministry.
"Christmas means there's hope, there's peace, and there's life," Pastor Michael Spann of Trinity Baptist church explained what Christmas means to him. He added the celebration is of "the birth of Christ and his first coming."
Pastor Spann said when Jesus Christ, Whom he believes is the virgin born Son of God, came to earth the first time he was tempted in every way that man was, including temptations of the lust of the flesh, lust of the eyes and the pride of life. He added that He overcame, lived a sinless life, died for the sins of man and rose again to give the forgiveness of sins to those who trust Him.
Besides encouraging those in his church to share their faith throughout the year and especially with the various ministries Trinity has at Christmas, Pastor Spann asks people outside the church personally to come to various activities. He also hands out gospel tracts to store clerks.
He said Christmas does provide the chance to share the Christmas message with more people because of the "Christmas programs, children's program, drama, Christmas concert." He added that some people are more willing to listen and are at least "cordial" to listening.
Traditions his family is involved with at Christmas include buying hot chocolate and driving around Findlay and looking at Christmas lights.
In addition, on "Christmas Eve we look at one of the Christmas stories in Matthew. Christmas morning before we open gifts we read (the Christmas story) in Luke and sing 'Happy Birthday' to Jesus."
"It's about Christ," George Abate, an OBGYN and deacon at Trinity Baptist Church explained what the season means to him. "God made Himself approachable through His Own Son. Our faith is a relationship.
"It gives us a chance to reflect on the meaning, which is not the gifts, it's not Black Friday. It's all about Jesus."
He added the birth of Christ in a manger was only the beginning. The birth led to the cross, where he paid for the sins of man. He said such love is "beyond what we can comprehend."
He explained that the incarnation of Christ, or the time when he believes God became a man, gave man the chance to walk in obedience to God. Before that, there was "no hope for humanity." Like Pastor Spann, he believes Christmas does give believers more a chance to share their faith--both outside the church and with his own children.
Abate said he has "taken a lot of flack" from some in his family because of the stand he takes in sharing the message of Christ with his own children. The doctor said he has told his children Santa Claus is "made up," just like "Superman, the Easter Bunny." He has "upset family members," but he wants his children to know "what Christmas is really about," (the birth of Jesus Christ).
In his family, at Christmas he, his wife, Lisa, and his children read through the message of Christmas in Matthew and Luke about the virgin birth of Christ, the visit of the shepherds to see the new baby and the visit of the wise men about two years after the birth of Jesus. He also mentioned the reaction to the birth of Christ by others mentioned in the Bible, including an old man named Simeon.
Dr. Abate added that he wants his children to know all the people in the Bible were historical characters, that Jesus was not the only real person of importance in the Bible, although He was the most important. He mentioned that everything in the Old Testament points forward to Christ, and the New Testament points backward to His first coming and forward to his second coming. Other characters in the Bible he mentioned included Abraham and Moses.
Rusty Vaughn, an office administrator at Trinity said before he was a believer in Christ, the only thing Christmas meant to him was having fun and spending time with family and friends.
Now that he is a believer, Vaughn says that while family and friends are important, it is "even more importantly a celebration of the life of Christ.
"In church, it's a more exciting time as far as planning for events," Vaughn added. "It gives more chances to invite people to events, the kid's Christmas program or the adult drama."
He said often people come to such events planning to come to one event only, "but they come back. Then they open up and accept Christ as Savior."
While sharing the gospel is the most important thing to Vaughn he also noted people are also more open to help the less fortunate. All through the year the church accepts donations for the homeless for the city mission. At Christmas an emphasis is made more strongly to give, he noted. During the year a barrel may be filled for donations once a month. During the Christmas season, the church uses more barrels, and they are filled weekly or every two weeks.
"Jesus is the hope of the world," Cheryl White, a retired accountant who has a weekly Bible study in which she shares the gospel with female inmates of the Hancock County Jail, explained what Christmas means to her. "He definitely is the answer to all their (inmates) problems. So many of the girls who come down (for the Bible study) don't believe it or trust it."
She added that is because some inmates have seen Christians living lives that don't seem to match what they say they believe.
"It takes me a month or two to show them Jesus is the answer," White added. "It's not an easy ministry. It's rewarding."
The retired accountant noted some prisoners have relatives who still visit them. Others have relatives who have "written them off. It makes it rather sad.
"Christmas to me is not a specific day of the year," she explained. "It is an attitude of the heart that should last all year. I don't spend a lot of money on gifts for other people. I try to love year round .... to show the love of Christ.
She remembered when she was an adult, with children and grandchildren of her own, her mother got remarried after the death of her husband. Her mom and step-dad would read the Christmas story with family around and said some are open to the gospel then, even if they are not otherwise.
"A lot of people will listen to the Christmas story that won't (listen to the gospel) when you have them in your home," she added.
"My granddaughter (Kloe Chisum, age nine) was in the store with her mother," she recalled another incident that made her think of the meaning of Christmas. "There were a bunch of people around, and she made a comment that 'why do they have all these things about Santa around and so little about Jesus, when He's the reason for the season. I'm proud of her.'"
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