Chicagoland celebrates Christmas Day

December 25, 2009 (CHICAGO) Cardinal Francis George celebrated a Christmas tradition at Holy Name Cathedral: midnight mass. Cardinal George called on the faithful to look beyond the hectic pace of the holiday and celebrate the true meaning of Christmas.

"In every generation, the mission of the church is to introduce the world to its savior. He is pure gift. He opens a new path in our sinful lives. He makes space in the midst of our clutter and fills it with peace borne of an infinite love," Cardinal George said.

Across the Chicago area Friday morning, Christians of all denominations celebrated the birth of Jesus Christ at church.

On the Magnificent Mile, people gathered inside Fourth Presbyterian Church. It was a full house for the 11 a.m. Christmas worship.

The church offered a community meal following the service.

On the South Side, music filled the church at St. Mark Methodist at 84th and St. Lawrence.

During the Christmas message, Pastor John Mccoy remembered those who have died and said there was also much to celebrate this year.

On West Roosevelt, parishioners gathered at Holy Family Roman Catholic Church. It is Chicago's second oldest church building and survived the Chicago fire.

Father Jerry Boland welcomed everyone as part of a new effort to bring Catholics back to mass.

In Munster, Indiana, the congregation at the South Side Christian Church celebrated in their sanctuary for the first time since a flood seriously damaged their church.

In September of last year, the flood destroyed the church's interior, rebuilding is about half complete, but there are still no chairs or pews.

We're grateful we're in here tonight. I can't wait until next christmas eve when we have everything back together," said Mike Gillespie, Senior Minister.

At Crerar Memorial Presbyterian, several generations celebrated Christmas Eve. The congregation sang songs and participated in the ritual of lights ceremony. The program concluded with everyone singing Silent Night.

Giving and Celebration

Cardinal George also celebrated Christmas by visiting several children who spent Christmas in the hospital.

Among them was 2-year-old Frank Sroka, who recently underwent a liver transplant. Doctors split one liver, giving part to Frank and part to a 17-year-old boy from Highland Park.

The cardinal chatted with the children and offered his encouragement.

The hospital staff said Bears player Peanut Tillman had also visited one girl before the cardinal dropped by.

The hospital visit is an annual tradition for Cardinal George.

On Chicago's Southwest Side, there was a message of hope for men and women separated from their loved ones this holiday.

Reverend Jesse Jackson spoke to Cook County County Jail inmates at 28th and Sacramento. He urged them to turn their lives around.

After his speech, Reverend Jackson led them in prayer.

He's been visiting local jails on Christmas morning for more than 30 years.

Reverend Michael Pfleger played piano as members of his Saint Sabina Church provided food, gifts and toys to the less fortunate Friday.

It's an annual tradition at the South Side church. Pfleger says the holiday party shows the true meaning of Christmas.

Several hundred people attended.

A holiday display at a home in suburban Hoffman Estates features 14,000 lights this Christmas. Samir Ishak says this light display is a holiday tradition at his home. This year, he worked for a week and two days to put it all together.

Ishak jokes that there's no stop sign in front of his house, but everyone driving by stops to take a look.

Finally, before heading back to the North Pole, Santa made a final stop in Chicago Friday morning.

With the sleigh parked at the North Pole, Santa made his entrance on the back of a fire engine.

He visited the boys and girls who had to spend the holiday at La Rabida Children's Hospital on the South Side.

Santa passed out presents and delivered holiday cheer to everyone.

This is the 39th year that St. Nick has visited the hospital on Christmas.

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