Grown women riding bicycles down the aisles of Walmart--that's the joy of Christmas.
Those same women buying the bicycles as Christmas gifts for two girls they will never meet--that's the joy of Jesus.
Each year in October a teacher at Riverheads Elementary School sends two emails. The first goes to all the teachers to ask if they will send a slip home to parents who could use some help making Christmas special for their children. The second email goes to area churches asking for help to meet the requests that come pouring in each year.
Mt. Tabor Lutheran Church in Staunton and Redeemer Lutheran Church in Middlebrook are two of the churches that always answer this call.
"I've been pastor for over 26 years and they've been doing it longer than I have been here," said Pastor JoAnn Bunn.
"The goal is to spend about $50 per person but we almost always go over that amount," she said.
All the area churches join together to participate in this program called Christmas Alive.
Each of Pastor Bunn's churches participate in slightly different ways but with the same outcome: the joy of a child on Christmas morning.
A volunteer at Mt. Tabor takes the children who have been identified by teachers and parents and prints their name along with one gift suggestion on a simple paper ornament. Each ornament is hung on the Chrismon tree where congregation members pick one (or more) children to shop for. Once they've selected the perfect gift, they wrap the present and bring it back to put under the tree.
At Redeemer, Pastor Bunn takes all the present suggestions and writes each gift idea on an index card along with the child's gender and grade. The stack of index cards aren't separated until all the women of the Church's Women's Group come together for shopping day.
When the women of Redeemer gather at Walmart there is excitement buzzing in the air. They break into teams and after the index cards are handed out, they begin the shopping spree. Oftentimes running into each other multiple times while in the store, each encounter bringing giggles filled with joy.
"One year there were two little girls and the only gift suggestion that was written down were bicycles and that was much more than we could afford," said Pastor Bunn. "We had two ladies who went to look at the bicycles and when they saw them, they just couldn't walk away. I had to keep them from riding up and down the aisles. They were just so determined to buy those bicycles that they didn't care if they had to pay for them out of their own pockets."
Excitement surrounding Christmas Alive doesn't stop after December 25th is over. Each year members of the churches participate in fundraisers to make sure they have enough money to buy presents for the children the following year. They even have their own auction at the church.
"You can't afford our German Chocolate Cake," Pastor Bunn said with a chuckle. "We have homemade cakes that can go for $80."
The church members come together as a body of Christ to show the love of Jesus to children in their community who they never meet. They raise money, shop for presents, and spend their time wrapping each gift.
"It's always a joy," Pastor Bunn said. "Sure, it's extra stuff to do in an already busy season, but it's always a joy and it's always worth it."