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Nativity Outreach to the Homeless Hosted by St. George in Orlando

By Archpriest John Hamatie, St. George Orthodox Church, Orlando

Anyone who knows me well, knows that I am a man of traditions. All of us have fond memories and traditions of the Nativity of Our Lord, God and Saviour, Jesus—also known as Christmas. I remember that as a child, I would not allow myself to be at home when the Christmas tree was taken down. In fact, I keep two trees up throughout the year-one Orthodox (decorated with small paper icons), and one secular. We also invite those who are alone to join us at Christmas dinner.

One tradition is the annual Christmas party for the homeless held at our Church of St. George in Orlando every December. On Friday, December 19, 2014, we had the joy and privilege to gather with over 400 homeless men, women and children and 111 volunteers to rejoice in the Lord. We hosted a band and set up tables with linens in our parking lot. The whole event was Christ-centered, as are all the feedings of the homeless at St. George's.

All of this is undertaken with the Ephraim Project who coordinate the regular Friday feeding (which is the largest every week), but also the other ten groups who feed every evening and some mornings and afternoons at St. George's. The Antiochian parish in Orlando has become over the last six plus years the downtown feeding, clothing and toiletries distribution center for the very large homeless community in Orlando and Central Florida. Many of the homeless have found a spiritual and communal home in the Holy Orthodox Church at St. George's. In addition, our people keep the church doors open seven days a week so that people may come into the church, light a candle, say a prayer, and experience the beauty of Christ's Holy Orthodox Church.

If you are planning on being in Orlando on a Friday, please come by around 5:00 pm and experience first hand the joy of fulfilling one of the Lord's commandments to "Feed my sheep." This is all the more beautiful to the parishoners of St. George who are blessed to bring to fruition one of the lines of the saint's troparion-"Defender of the Poor."

Christ is born! We should all endeavor to glorify Him.