Part 8 in our "12 Days of Christmas" series
GALAX, Va. (Jan. 1, 2015) – On Dec. 6, reindeer dropped Santa off at Asbury United Methodist Church for a two-hour visit. More than 300 people heralding from Grayson, Carroll and Galax came for his call.
As children filled the sanctuary to meet with Santa, the adults filled the clothing closet downstairs. One could hardly get through all the visitors and shoppers. All drank hot chocolate and ate cookies prepared by members of Asbury, Longview United Methodist Church and Leonard Memorial United Methodist Church.
Church members distributed more than 80 English and Spanish children's New Testaments provided by Gideons International. Each child also received a treat bag filled with apples, oranges and candies. The clothing closet gave toys, clothing and food to those who requested them. The excitement on the children's faces made it worth all the time and effort. As Jesus said, "Suffer the little children to come unto me."
Hosting the Christmas party was the brainchild of the pastor, the Rev. Lee Houston, an idea the congregation jumped on from the start. Preparations began immediately after Thanksgiving. Local radio and television stations as well newspapers and fliers announced Santa's drop-in. Yet, the most effective advertisement was two churchgoers who went door-to-door spreading the word.
Santa's visit to Asbury demonstrates just how alive and vital a small church can be to a community. A few months ago, Asbury’s attendance was down to 6 to 8 on Sunday, and we only had $200 in church funds. Within a few months, the attendance is now 18-20 with 25 on the Sunday before Christmas.
Asbury traces its roots to a log cabin where Francis Asbury preached. Asbury's clothing closet and food pantry are staffed with volunteers from the church as well as members from other local churches. Asbury turns away no one, using the money from the sale of donated items to purchase food for the community pantry. Every time Asbury expands its operating hours, donations grow and volunteers increase.
It is amazing how God works. Asbury is a diamond, shining for God in its community.
Happy birthday, Jesus! God bless us everyone.
The Rev. Lee Houston is pastor of the Galax Circuit.