Residents and workers in the city of Costa Mesa in Orange County, Calif., may be experiencing a brighter Christmas season this year thanks to a local church that decided to shower its community with gifts of love and service for 25 days.
This past week, 25 school principals and vice principals in the local school district were given tickets to attend concerts, sporting events, and gift certificates for such services as massages and spa treatments. Last week, among the "25 Days of Christmas" giving opportunities for volunteers at The Crossing Church, mail carriers and trash truck drivers were given baskets of cookies.
At sober living homes in the area this week, gift baskets were delivered along with invitations to have Christmas dinner with church members. On another day, drivers in the city were randomly given $25 gas cards.
"Today, we fed about 150 Costa Mesa city workers, everybody from firemen to policemen, to administrative assistants to manager, to the City Attorney, you name it, they were pretty much all there," Tim Celek, pastor of The Crossing Church, told The Christian Post Friday. "It was about saying thank you to them for their service to our city with no strings attached, no cost."
The Crossing began participating in the Christmas giving project on Dec. 1. The goal is to get its 2,500 members doing more than simply telling the Christmas story, but to show the love of Christ to Costa Mesa, Celek said.
"My main goal over this season is to tell people that we are still going to talk about the Christmas story, but most of you here know the story about Jesus coming into this world into an obscure village and born of peasant parents – and the shepherds, and the manger, and the feeding trough, but we decide we are not going to just talk about it this year," he said. "Our goal this year is to be Christmas to our community and to our world."
During a day Celek called a "pay-it-forward day" church volunteers were encouraged to visit a coffee shop or diner and "just turnaround to the people behind them and say, 'coffee is on me' or 'lunch is on me.'" At least 250 people participated in the charitable acts that day, he said.
The low-key pastor himself went to a coffee shop and pre-paid for coffee drinks for the next 10 customers. He told the cashier he wanted to stay anonymous as he stood back and watched the coffee patrons' reactions.
"There were a couple of people who said, 'I've never won anything in my whole life,'" Celek said. "They would ask, 'Who paid for it?' And the cashier would just say, 'Well, they wanted to remain anonymous and just wanted you to have a Merry Christmas.'"
He said the idea for "25 Days of Christmas" came when thinking about how to commemorate the 25th anniversary of The Crossing.
"We wanted to kick-off a year's worth of celebration by just blessing and loving our community and our city," Celek explained.
During a cold and rainy day this week, 110 day laborers (or immigrant workers), volunteers provided a hot breakfast. At all of the daily activities nothing was asked for in return by church volunteers, who simply passed out a card that said, "Merry Christmas from The Crossing" that included the church's address.
When asked about the reaction from some of the people blessed by the church's Christmas outreach, Celek said, "Overall, people were stunned that someone would say 'thank you' or that somebody was caring for or loving on them for no apparent reason. It's just been pretty cool."