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Whitman: Leave your Christmas worries behind

By Sarah Whitman, Times Columnist
Religion columnist Sarah Whitman suggests embracing true Christmas traditions by attending holiday concerts and events like the Live Nativity at Christmas Lane at the Florida Strawberry Festival grounds in Plant City. Various churches will stage the production at 7 p.m. and 8:30 p.m. on Dec. 7, Dec. 9, Dec. 14, Dec. 16, Dec. 21 and Dec. 23. | Photo courtesy of Christmas Lane.

Christmas gives people anxiety, showed a recent poll study conducted by Saint Leo University.

Also, most Americans view the holiday as cultural, not religious. And young people consider Black Friday, not Advent, the start of the season, though many find the commercialization of the holiday annoying.

The poll, conducted online in November, asked 1,000 adults nationwide: "How do you view Christmas today?" Of the poll respondents, 43 percent say they think it is all or mostly cultural, while 31.3 percent say it is evenly cultural and religious.

Sigh, sad face. I mean, it doesnít have to be this way folks. No one is required to go broke buying discounted electronics or marked-up Fingerlings. Planning Pinterest-perfect ugly sweater parties is not mandatory. Burning the cookies will not earn you a spot in Hell.

And if people love you less or more based on gifts, they need a reminder: Christmas is about joy.

On the chosen day, Dec. 25, Christians celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ. We reflect on the holy Nativity.

Joy to the World, the Lord has come.

When they saw the star, they rejoiced.

These classic lyrics evoke the holiday spirit. (Yes, there is a reason people donít sing about shopping.)

Even the cultural aspects of Christmas passed down through generations, from decorating to cooking family meals and watching Rudolph, these traditions were meant to bring joy.

People often talk about taking back Christmas. Easy, stop buying the manufactured Ďholiday stress.í Leave the worries behind. Go to a Christmas concert. Visit a church. I like to drive around, look at lights and sing Silent Night.

And, the following churches are among many that will host Christmas concerts in the spirit of the season.

Grace Lutheran Church, 3714 W Linebaugh Ave., will host Christmas events throughout December.

A concert, The Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols, will be at 4 p.m. Dec. 10. Presented by the Chancel Choir and Chamber Orchestra, the concert features scripture foretelling Christís birth and music by G.F. Handel, John Rutter, Bob Chilcott and others. The concert is free but an offering will be collected for the Homeless in the Community Ministry.

At 9:45 a.m. Dec. 17, celebrate Jesusí birth with birthday party cake, punch, stories, crafts and games. Adults are invited to enjoy coffee, cake and fellowship. Everyone is welcome and the event is free. For more information, visit

Plant City Community Chorale will present Believe! A Christmas Concert, sponsored by Hopewell Funeral Home & Memorial Gardens, at 7:30 p.m. Dec. 9 at Holy Innocentsí Episcopal Church, 604 N Valrico Road. Under the direction of Claudia Bolano Becerra, the concert will feature a variety of Christmas classics. Tickets are $10 in advance or $15 at door. For more information, visit or call (813) 951-5166.

First United Methodist Church of Lutz, 560 Lutz Lake Fern Road, will present a Christmas Musical at 7 p.m. Dec. 16 and 9:30 and 11 a.m. Dec. 17. Admission is free. For information, call (813) 949-1751.

Contact Sarah Whitman at [email protected]