A Manitoba pastor is releasing a new Christmas song to lift spirits that may have been dampened during 2020.

Jake Fretz, pastor of Prairie Alliance Church in Portage la Prairie, says his new song "Emmanuel God With Us" is about the call Christmas puts on the lives of Christians.

"Every year we celebrate how Jesus came to earth and shared God's power and love with us, but recently, I've been reminded that through God's spirit, Jesus is still and always will be Emmanuel God with us," Fretz says.

"What amazes me more than ever is that when we follow Christ's example, we, too, can share God's power and love with others."

"As we turned our eyes outside of the church and started loving on our neighbour, I feel our church has come more alive than ever."

Fretz says it is important to remember that Christmas is a season beyond the nativity story.

"Christmas is not really about remembering what God has done, it's also about inspiring us to join what He's still doing today."

That attitude of sharing joy is one Fretz has seen in his own church community throughout COVID-19.

"I've been surprised to see how community members have gathered around one another. How, instead of looking to our own needs, we start looking to the needs of our community," Fretz says. "People who needed food, who needed help financially. Restaurants and local businesses that need to stay open.

"As we turned our eyes outside of the church and started loving on our neighbour, I feel our church has come more alive than ever."

In a word, Fretz says church life during COVID-19 has been surprising.

Most surprising has been the amount of community Fretz has seen their church celebrating.

"In a time where we thought we would be isolating and feeling apart from everyone, we're finding new and creative ways just to share the love with one another and just encourage each other on a weekly basis."

The upcoming Christmas season is a time Fretz believes Christians can truly use to walk alongside Jesus, in spite of the less-than-ideal circumstances surrounding them.

"I think our eyes always need to be open to what does He want to do in me? We often want to take God's love and try to share it before we actually receive it, so I'd encourage everyone (to) take a moment, pause, remember what He's done for you already and be grateful ... thank Him for those things."

Then, Fretz encourages believers to look beyond their own needs to the needs of others.

"After all, He went from heaven down to earth ... and He became human so He could share it with us," Fretz reminds.

"I think we get to follow in his example when we take what we've received and begin to give it in tangible ways to our neighbours."