Swaddled in warm jackets and wrapped in scarves, hats and mittens, many gathered at the Bulloch County Courthouse Dec. 16 for the inaugural "Christmas at the Courthouse" to celebrate the birth of Jesus long ago. The wind was brisk and chilling, but participants huddled close to worship and pray.
The idea and cumulative effort of several local pastors, "Christmas at the Courthouse" follows the fall event, the "Fall Day of Prayer," held at Statesboro High School several months back and precedes the long-standing National Day of Prayer held each year in May at the courthouse to be a three-part venture to unite the community in nondenominational worship.
With cars whizzing past in the background, Pastor Ed Neubert of Statesboro's Cornerstone Church welcomed the crowd and said, "We're here to magnify the Lord, to honor the Lord. That's the key - to be grateful for the greatest gift - God's son, Immanuel, coming into the world."
Pastor Scott Moore, Believers Church of Statesboro, read from the Old Testament of the Bible, sharing prophesy that foretold the much-anticipated birth. He read Isaiah 9:6, "For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given. And his name shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, the mighty God, the everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace."
Reading the Christmas story as contained in the New Testament of the Bible, Pastors Bill Bagwell of Pittman Park United Methodist Church, Carlton Hendrix of Temple Hill Baptist Church and Stewart Moody of Southbridge Community Church, as well as First Baptist Church member Allen Muldrew shared the birth of Jesus interspersed with traditional Christmas hymns and carols.
Dr. John Waters, Statesboro First Baptist Church pastor, gave a brief message about the importance of the birth so long ago.
"We're here to celebrate the birth of Jesus. The great joy and great news is that Jesus Christ is the Savior of the World.
"When Jesus was born, the world was covered in darkness. Darkness is still prevalent, but the message of Jesus is still relevant. The joy and peace and light that comes from Jesus Christ is for all. He changed lives then and he is changing lives now.
"The message is: Jesus was born of a virgin, died on a cross for our sins, was buried and rose again. He paid the price for our sins. No matter who you are, God's grace is available to you," he said.
Waters pointed out that "fake" news stories are rampant these days.
"But you can believe the good news of Jesus, the truth of Jesus. Our lives can be changed because of the Christmas story," he said.
Despite the cold, many chose to celebrate that first Christmas story, the birth of Jesus. Three generations of the Glisson family made their way to the courthouse lawn. Jerry and Barbara Glisson, daughter and son-in-law Cindy and Todd Von Waldner, and six-year-old Natalie joined the inaugural event.
Barbara Glisson said, "It was great hearing the message of hope through knowing Christ. I believe it helped unite the group attending. My granddaughter, Natalie, knows the carols and sang joyfully. Our family thoroughly enjoyed the evening."