The spirit of joyful giving among members of the Christ United Methodist Church is represented by the colorfully decorated Christmas tree that stands in the church foyer.
Called The Enchanted Tree, it is festooned with colorful plastic bags that have held contributions from members to support a host of charities and church projects.Last year, the first time the congregation decorated The Enchanted Tree, $5,000 was raised at Christmastime. "This year," the Rev. Tom English said, "we hope to raise as much or more.
"The money will be used to help the Jordan United Methodist Church, which our congregation helped start; the Frank Walker Fund, a good Samaritan fund to help people with emergency needs; the Children's Fund to assist low-income handicapped children; and several other programs.
"That includes support of the Crossroads Urban Center and a drive to buy a van to carry our youths and adults back and forth to church and to other functions."
The Rev. English, senior minister at Christ United Methodist Church, said his congregation numbers 1,350 and is one of the largest Protestant churches in Utah.
He said The Enchanted Tree was his idea and came about, he said, "through the realization that people want to give to others and can achieve joy and satisfaction through giving."
A few weeks before Christmas, he writes everyone in his congregation and asks them, "Can you imagine the thrill of being one of the three wise men called to bear gifts in honor of the birth of Christ?"
He invites them to transform the empty limbs of The Enchanted Tree to brilliant color with their gifts borne in small, colored plastic bags.
"Christ is the personification of someone who gave of Himself, who gave his entire life for others. At Christmastime, it is exciting to see so many people giving gifts.
"These gifts are generally given without respect to whether or not the recipient has earned the gift or deserves a present."
"Giving our talents, time, effort and our money to help others is certainly one of the keys to happiness," he said.
"If only this spirit of giving that is so much a part of our Christmas tradition could continue throughout the entire year and guide all of our lives every day - this would be a different world. It would be magnificent."
The Rev. English said two services this Sunday, at 9:30 a.m. and at 11 a.m., will contain a Christmas theme and message.
"But our biggest Christmas celebration will be Christmas Eve.
"We will have three services Monday night, at 6:30, 8 and 11. All three will contain scriptures, carols and candlelight and the 8 p.m. and 11 p.m. services will include the taking of communion."