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Coming Together for Christmas Dinner

CEDAR RAPIDS, IA (CBS2/FOX28) - For every time we grab a door-buster deal, rush to the mall or lament how commercialized Christmas has become, be assured there is proof of the spirit of the season.  With Away in the Manger floating from the piano at  Saint Pauls United Methodist Church in Cedar Rapids, scores of friends and strangers are side by side for the annual Christmas dinner.  Its a gathering born from one simple idea, that no one should spend the holiday alone.  Its a mix of good food, good people and a pinch of Christmas chaos with volunteer Jennifer Petersen right in the middle of it all.  It makes me feel very humble .. I'm just excited that we can be here helping them understand what Christmas is about and to fill their stomachs and hopefully their souls as well.


For the fifth year Jennifer brought her entire family.  Ten-year-old Nile is helping guests find a seat and 7-year-old Jane is picking out Christmas songs for her uncle to play.  Amid all the glitter and gifts of the season they say this is what fills their hearts.  As Jennifer passes by one table a woman asks her to stop for a moment.  Sally Rohrer hugs her and thanks her for giving up her holiday to help others.  Jennifer hugs her back .. We didnt give anything up .. this is what Christmas is about.


The entire room seems to glow with the notion that its better to give , even if youre just seven.  Jane says this isnt work.  I just walk around and fill drinks or clear their plates .. it just makes me feel really really happy.  Its the beginning of a holiday tradition sure to outlast the iPads and X-Boxes. Nile has been here enough times he looks forward to seeing the regulars. Just seeing all the people come in .. theyre having a good time talking .. it just makes Christmas a lot better.


As the final strains of Away in the Manger drift from Saint Pauls it would appear the spirit of the season is alive and well.

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