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Keeping the meaning of Christmas alive

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Christmas arrived early this year at Wantagh Memorial Congregational Church. 

Congregants from Wantagh, Seaford and Levittown celebrated Christmas in July on Sunday. Leaders of the United Church of Christ house of worship, situated on Wantagh Avenue, hosted a service, charity food drive and vendor fair with winter holiday flair for the community. 

“We need to use our imaginations,” the Rev. Ron Garner, the church’s pastor, told congregants during the service. “Please imagine that there is snow on the ground and that the temperature is in the 20s and not the 90s.”

The entire program encouraged locals to embrace philanthropy and remember the meaning of Christmas  — 365 days a year. “It’s a message that needs to be told more than once a year,” said Gloria Malin, the event’s coordinator. “Our church also has a passion for giving back.”

According to Malin, Wantagh Memorial Congregational held a Christmas in July event four years ago and collected hundreds of pounds of nonperishables for local charities. The food collection was successful once again, as churchgoers will delivers scores of boxes of food to the Long Island Council of Churches emergency food pantry in Freeport and another in Hempstead. 

In advance of the Christmas in July festivities, parishioners collected donations for the food drive at King Kullen in Wantagh. Attendees, as well as leaders of the Pixie Nursery School, also offered foodstuffs on the day of the service. 

“We like to keep donations local,” Malin explained. “It’s important to help those in need in Long Island’s communities.”

Garner said that Wantagh Memorial Congregational, established in 1888, has a long history of community service. Leaders host food drives at least three times a year, getting area children involved by allowing them to present their offerings to charities and people in need.

The worship service at the Christmas in July event was also focused on getting into spirit of giving, which clergy and congregants agreed is the true meaning of the holiday. 

The service focused on getting into the spirit of giving all year round. Attendees reflected on the concept while singing Christmas carols, including “God Rest Ye Merry Gentleman” and “Hark the Herald Angels Sing.”

Garner and Peter Perlow, a parishioner, recited a skit about honoring the birth of Jesus Christ and helping those in need. They were joined by Laura Mauer, head deacon, and James Lewarn, a Sunday school student, for the morning’s prayers. 

On the lawn, visitors dropped by the donation tent, situated alongside six vendor tents, where clothes, toys and jewelry were for sale. Each vendor donated $20 to the church, according to congregant Karen Jackson, who sat at the food drive station.

“Christmas is every day,” Margaret Silberger, Wantagh Memorial Congregational board trustee, added. “It shouldn’t just be celebrated on Dec. 25.”