By Jennifer Gallus
The three pastors at Howard Lake Christian Church talk Christmas traditions
HOWARD LAKE, MN - “A church should be fun because heaven is going to be a blast,” is the motto of Howard Lake Christian Church Senior Pastor Rick Messer.
As part of a series of articles featuring the pastors of Howard Lake’s six churches and their Christmas traditions, the three pastors of Howard Lake Christian Church talk about their holiday habits.
Besides Messer, the church employs Pastor of Worship and Administration Dennis Entinger, as well as Youth Pastor Matt Wagner. The church has about 130 members.
Messer is originally from North Carolina, and is entering his eighth year of service to the area.
“The ministry brought me here,” Messer said. “I had the opportunity to come and preach, and I haven’t looked back.”
Attending a Christmas Eve service has always been a tradition for Messer, his wife of 23 years Kathleen, and their two children.
After the service, the family returns home for sparkling grape soda, and appetizers such as summer sausage, crackers, and cheese.
“We keep it very simple. We sit around the Christmas tree and share stories about what has happened in our lives over the past year, how God has blessed us, and thank the Lord for all he has done,” Messer explained.
Entinger has lived in the Howard Lake area most of his life.
He, his parents, and grandparents, attended the church back when it was called the Church of Christ and was located on Ninth Street and Sixth Avenue, which is now a residence.
Even when Entinger moved out of the area in the 1970s for six years, he was still involved in the church’s music program and would make trips to Howard Lake for his music ministry.
Entinger’s Christmas traditions, back when he and his wife LuAnn’s four children were younger, included driving about seven or eight miles north of Howard Lake and cutting their own Christmas tree at a farm.
“Usually we’d cut two trees. One for the church and one for our house,” Entinger said.
Many of Entinger’s family members would attend the Christmas Eve service in Howard Lake, and return to his house for snacks such as jumbo shrimp, cheese, crackers, and more.
A few presents are opened on Christmas Eve, and the remainder are opened Christmas Day.
The Entingers set out Christmas stockings for themselves, their grown children, and their seven grandchildren.
Christmas morning, after the stockings are stuffed, they are laid out in front of the Christmas tree.
“For Christmas gifts, we started making caramel corn. We put it in one-gallon bags and tie it with ribbon and attach an ornament on the ribbon,” Entinger explained.
Christmas Day is spent with Entinger’s siblings.
“We’re all about family. My side of the family is very large there’s about 70 of us so when we get together it’s more like a convention than a family gathering,” Entinger laughed.
Wagner is originally from Indiana and moved to Howard Lake about a year and a half ago for the ministry.
Wagner had a connection to Messer through a church in Ohio. He and his wife Angie both attended Bible college in North Carolina. The couple now has two children and one on the way.
“Normally, we’d go to my parents house in Indiana on Christmas Eve, but the last couple of years have been odd because we didn’t get to go home,” Wagner said.
“We’d spend Christmas Day there. My brothers and sisters and their families would come over and open presents,” he added.
This year, the Wagners will be going home to Indiana for Christmas, which is something the family is very excited about.
Howard Lake Christian Church’s big Christmas ministry is the Operation Christmas Child project, where toys and necessities are packaged into boxes and sent to needy children in other countries.
The church packed 70 boxes of Christmas presents this year.
“It was neat to watch my kids’ involvement in the project, and watch them pack up boxes,” Wagner said.
The Christmas Eve service is very popular at Howard Lake Christian and will take place Wednesday, Dec. 24 at 5 p.m.
“It’s a quiet, candlelight service for the reflection of the birth of Jesus Christ. It’s a really nice time to be together,” Messer said.
Messer also said that the church “celebrates the simple victories of life,” all year long.