Geneseo church offering free Christmas meal

Claudia Loucks
Volunteers at First Lutheran Church, including Mike and Marlee Stiener, at left, and Judy and Bob DeBoever will help serve the Community Christmas Day Dinner on Dec. 25 the church. The event is offered at no charge.

The congregation at First Lutheran Church, in Geneseo, continues to “put Christ back into Christmas,” by opening their doors and their hearts to anyone who wants to join them for dinner on Christmas Day.

The church will host a Community Christmas Day Dinner, with serving from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Sunday, Dec. 25, in the Fellowship Room of the church. There is no charge for the meal and an offering will not be taken.

The Christmas dinner menu includes turkey, ham, potatoes, vegetables, salads, rolls, beverage and dessert.

Janet Larson, with the help of other church members, was instrumental in planning the first Christmas Day dinner nine years ago.

“We serve nearly 150 people each year and we look for at least that many guests this year,” she said, adding that anyone who is homebound can have a meal delivered by calling her at (309) 507-2997.

In the first year for the Christmas dinner, there were about 50 people served and Larson said the request for home deliveries has increased.

“With the growth in attendance, we know we are meeting a need in the community,” explained Larson.

“Our church is centrally located and also is an ideal stop for people traveling on Christmas Day,” she said.

The idea surfaced one year after Thanksgiving when Larson began thinking of ways to “put Christ back into Christmas.”

“We want it to be a time of serving rather than concentrating on receiving and those are lessons we want for our children,” she said, referring to scripture from Romans 12:13, “When God’s people are in need, be ready to help them. Always be eager to practice hospitality.”

“Our families are excited about the Christmas Day Dinner,” Larson said. “Our hope is that our children will remember what they did to make Christmas Day brighter for someone else.”

She recalled one of the first Christmas Day dinners when a group of widows came to the church for the dinner.

“That year we had several inches of snow and they were not able to travel to be with their families,” Larson said. “Every year the women return and it has become a Christmas tradition for that group of friends to eat together at our church. We look forward to seeing them every year.”

Larson believes the Community Christmas Day Dinner “is something that is needed in our community and the surrounding area because we are not aware of any other meals offered on Christmas Day.”

“That day can be the loneliest day of the year. We want those people who would otherwise be alone to be a part of our family on Christmas Day,” she said.

“Christ has called us to be in community with others, to tend to the needs of our neighbors,” she said. “Our mission at First Lutheran challenges us all to share Christ’s love to all. One of the most exciting opportunities is to serve our community on Christmas Day by providing a hot meal and fellowship for those who are alone or are in need. By sharing our blessings we, too, are blessed.”

Christmas Day Carols & Communion service at First Lutheran will start at 10 a.m. in the sanctuary.