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Angel Gifts On A Winter's Night

It came upon a night not so clear. And, in keeping with that first Christmas, in a spot not at all auspicious. But, the result was the same, a gift from the "angels."

Sunday evening as the rain continued to fall on a now slushy snow base, the less fortunate, in material terms, flowed into Rising Hope Methodist Mission Church to receive their "special gift" from the earthbound "angels" of the 21st century. It marked the 8th annual "Blessing of the Angel Gifts" conducted in this sanctuary for the less fortunate.

Tucked in the corner of Engleside Office Park, just off Richmond Highway, the Reverend Kerry Kincannon and his church administrator, Laura M. Derby, were bringing Christmas to 100 families in the form of special gifts. They were donated by churches and groups throughout the area.

"Angels have appeared to many in both the Old and New testaments. They heralded the birth of Christ. And they came with hope, promise and deliverance," Kincannon told the nearly 150 gathered at his church awaiting their Angel deliverance.

"Tonight's gifts are a sign of God's love in this world. There are angels out there who want us to know God is with us. May we become more aware of the angel's in our midst," he said.

During the evening more than 600 gifts were distributed to 100 families who had made specific requests, according to Kincannon. "These people made specific requests and that is what was given to them," he said. Each gift ranged from $25 to $30, he said.

As each family's name was called, Derby presented them with a bag filled with gifts. "This is wonderful," Monty Hall exclaimed as he accepted his.

ONE OF THE MOST appreciative was Tony Abdul, a Muslim who converted to Christianity, and now an active member at Rising Hope. "This is truly a gift from the angels," he said.

Those gifts were purchased by the Rotary of South Alexandria and the following churches and church groups: Andrew Chapel UMC, Burke UMC Youth, Fairlington UMC Pre-School, Immanuel UMC, St. Aiden's Episcopal Church, Washington Farm UMC, Annandale UMC, Christ UMC, Franconia UMC, St. Paul UMC, and Washington Street UMC.

As the gifts were distributed, Kincannon, who regularly plays guitar during his services, and his wife, an accomplished flutist, lead the group in singing Christmas carols. The Cranford United Methodist Church Choir, which was scheduled to present "A Christmas Cantata," fell victim to the area's latest snowstorm.

But this was only the beginning of Rising Hope's Christmas events. Beginning on Dec. 16 and running through Dec. 19, another 600 gifts will be distributed through the church's Christmas Shop.

Organized and staffed by congregates from Washington Farms United Methodist Church, this event provides gifts to those who had not made specific requests for the Angel Gifts. "It is equally important as the Blessing of the Angel Gifts," Kincannon said.

On Dec. 23, there will be a distribution of 200 Christmas Baskets. Each contains a turkey and ham.

Christmas Eve there is a one hour candlelight service from 7 - 8 p.m. "This includes a children's pageant," Kincannon said.

Christmas Day, from noon to 3 p.m., "We have lots of food and music," Kincannon added. "There are also gifts for everyone who comes. We normally get between 40 and 60 people. And, we get help from volunteers from other churches.