It was a moment worthy of a Hallmark Christmas movie. With the historic hotel as a backdrop, the excited crowd waited in eager anticipation. Santa Claus arrived right on schedule via a Watch Hill Fire truck, dubbed “The North Pole Express.” When Daniel Hostettler, the president and managing director of the Ocean House, gave the signal, Santa lit up the Christmas tree.

I love this time of year. Moments like this happen in towns and cities across America. Did you see the movie “Holiday for Heroes?” It had all the characteristics of a holiday classic. It featured a budding romance, complications caused by confusion and misunderstandings, and hope renewed through a Christmas miracle. Front and center in that film was the Norwich City Hall. It brought back such wonderful memories of times gone by.

There is magic in the air. Whenever there is a tree lighting, a community carol sing or special music program, the world grows a little brighter. Even in the most difficult times, Christmas brings out the best in people. Maybe that’s why we love the classic film, “It’s a Wonderful Life.” It is Christmas in Bedford Falls. George Bailey is about to lose everything. When the people hear about it, the whole town comes together. All of his friends gather around him to support him.

As the movie ends, we’re reminded that in our darkest moments, God cares for us. He is with us in our friends and family. This is the message of Christmas. That baby born in Bethlehem was given a name. His mother, Mary, was told that they would call him Emmanuel, which means, “God with us!” That’s the message that brings joy to the world.

Could it be that this is why these Christmas gatherings are so heartwarming? They remind us that no matter how bad life gets, we have a promise that will never be broken. God shines his light into the darkness and gives us hope. As trees light up and carols are sung, we become one family, standing together to face whatever the future may bring knowing that we are not alone. God is with us.

In the coming weeks there will be parades, open houses and church services that will bring us together to celebrate the love of God that was revealed in a manger in Bethlehem. I pray that this Christmas season will be a time of renewal and blessing as you sing the angel’s refrain of “Gloria in Excelsis Deo!” in the town square where you live.

The Rev. Cal Lord is pastor of Central Baptist Church in Westerly.

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