The sheep in the afternoon session of Ecumenical Christmas School waited patiently to begin the program for their parents, relatives, and friends. Pictured are (from left): Carson Oliver, Noah Liebrecht, Chase Niese, Blake Schnipke, Brayden Kuhlman and Hailee McCrate. (Putnam Sentinel/Becky Leader)
The sheep in the afternoon session of Ecumenical Christmas School waited patiently to begin the program for their parents, relatives, and friends. Pictured are (from left): Carson Oliver, Noah Liebrecht, Chase Niese, Blake Schnipke, Brayden Kuhlman and Hailee McCrate. (Putnam Sentinel/Becky Leader)
OTTAWA - Ecumenical Christmas School, which was held Dec. 2 through Dec. 6 at Trinity United Methodist Church, Ottawa, was designed to teach the children who attended the true meaning of Christmas, despite all the commercialization that the holiday has achieved. Preparation for Christmas School began months ago, according to TUM Pastor and Christmas School coordinator, Lynda Lockwood.
The school incorporated songs, stories, drama, games, and crafts to educate the children. Supplies were ordered, costumes repaired, teachers and helpers were lined up, and children were registered for the event. The church was filled with 74 excited, energetic three- to six-year-old children. The weeklong event offered two-hour morning and afternoon sessions. The children were grouped by ages into classes: Snowmen, Mittens, Stars, Reindeer, Angels, Ornaments, and Trees. Each group had a lead teacher and several helpers. In all, the school had 50 volunteers from the community.

The children began each day by putting star stickers on their "Countdown to Christmas" calendars. They worked on crafts such as a macaroni star, "Jingle for Jesus" necklace, Baby Jesus Nativity, and stained glass sun catchers. One day, the children dressed in a nativity costume of their choice; individual and group photos were taken. Some of the children put the pictures in frames they designed, decorated with the Holy Family, sheep, and stars. The teachers read Christmas stories to the children and did numerous other religious-based activities with them. Each day, the children rehearsed the songs for Friday's program. They also ate a snack.

The children had the opportunity to share the meaning of the holy season by bringing a toy that was donated to the Putnam County Community Thrift Store for its annual Christmas Toy Give-Away. The closing program was held on Dec.6. Many parents, grandparents, and friends were on hand to see the children present the Christmas story in the pageant. Older children dressed in nativity costumes; Mary, Joseph, Gabriel, angels, sheep, a cow, a donkey, shepherds, and kings paraded down the aisle. The children helped tell the Christmas story, as they shouted out key words such as "Gabriel," "Bethlehem," "Holy Family," and "Gold, Frankincense, and Myrrh." The children sang songs, including "Mary Had A Visitor," "See the Baby Jesus," "Away in a Manger," "Little Donkey," and everyone's favorite, "Ten Little Angels."

"To see the children's smiles and to hear their laughter is a blessing in itself. But the greatest reward comes when we hear them tell, in their own words, the true Christmas Story and when we see them grasp the concept of why we celebrate Christmas," Lockwood related. "For this reason, I am so very thankful for the ones who started this program and for the leaders, teachers, and helpers who stepped forward to keep the program going."

"Christmas School is a wonderful way to start the Advent season as we prepare our hearts for the celebration of Christ's birth," Lockwood concluded.