GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - Christmastime is known for lavish decorations, shopping sprees, and of course, presents. Some clergy say the greatest gift of Christmas is love.
Hours before Christmas Eve worship service, Rev. George Bendall spent time fine tuning his message for the congregation of Westminister Presbyterian in Gulfport.
"We get so captivated by the lights and the gifts and the presents and the coming and going and all the parties, that sometimes we actually leave Christ out of Christmas," said Rev. Bendall.
Christmas dinner on Saturday is expected to bring more than 500 guest to the Gulf Coast Rescue Mission in Biloxi. Leaders in the ministry say much of the food here is donated and tough economic times have made the community more generous.
"Christmas to me has a two-fold meaning. One, it's the time we celebrate the greatest gift that was ever given to man and that's God's love through his son Jesus Christ," said Rev. Tom Mims. "Christmas is the one time out of the year that we've learned to put the art of giving into work, into practice. And if we would do that every day of the year as the song once said, 'what a wonderful world this would be.'"
His wife, Tammy Mims manager the ministry's office. She said the gift of giving extends past donations of money or items.
"Sharing your time, sharing a smile. Sharing just your love for God. That's the main thing that people can see. "
The Bible's depiction of the birth of Jesus is a story Rev. Bendall says reminds Christians to never to give up hope.
"One of the things that we encourage our folks to do is to look at the things that they have been blessed with, the gifts that God has showered during this particular time of the year or throughout the year."
With all the hustle and bustle of the holidays, clergy suggest people take some time this Christmas to relax and enjoy the company of friends and family.