UMC road tour aims to unwrap Christmas, Champaign one of 21 stops


CHAMPAIGN, Ill. – For those meandering on the University of Illinois campus with visions of sugarplums on December 10, they might get a glimpse of the true meaning of Christmas – and it comes with free hot cocoa.

The United Methodist Church is hitting the road in 16 states throughout December on “The True Meaning of Christmas Tour.” Champaign-area United Methodist churches will host the come-and-go event during The Nutcracker performance on December 10 from noon until 5 p.m. outside the Tryon Festival Theater, located at Krannert Center for the Performing Arts at Illinois, 500 S. Goodwin Avenue in Urbana. An easy-to-find, bedecked tour truck will be the centerpiece of the festivities and the whole community is invited.

“We want to offer our community a different type of gift: an opportunity to celebrate what Christmas is all about by engaging in service with neighbors, boosting joy and building relationships with others,” said Bishop Frank J. Beard, resident bishop of the Illinois Area of The United Methodist Church. “We are also extending an invitation to attend a place of worship or become part of a faith community.”

There will also be a collection of gloves, scarves and caps for homeless men, women and children served by Austin’s Place and Overnight Shelter for Men, two shelters affiliated with Champaign-area United Methodist churches. Tour participants can bring donations to the event.

A survey conducted by Pew Research Center in 2013 indicated that the activities that people least liked at Christmas time are the commercialism/materialism, money/expense, and shopping/crowds. What they most look forward to is spending time with family and friends (69%) and religious reflection/church (11%).

“This tour is a unique way for the church to reach out to people who are experiencing loneliness or who want to give back to the community at this significant time of year,” said Dan Krause, chief executive of United Methodist Communications, which is coordinating the month-long expedition. “More than 500 volunteers from local United Methodist churches are partnering with us to make this a multi-state effort.”

The True Meaning of Christmas Tour will stop in 21 cities, December 2-24. Follow the tour online at and #UnwrapChristmas.