This advent season, Monfort Heights United Methodist Church has really blown me out of the water. As all churches do, we have a lot of opportunities for giving and different missions going on. Our lobby is filled with a Christmas tree made out of canned goods for pantries, an angel tree filled with ornaments of families needing extra Christmas cheer, a box to go along with our series “Socks & Underwear” collecting new socks and underwear for those who just can’t afford it, yet another tree filled with hats and mittens to give away, and finally pictures of goats that we will be purchasing through heifer international.
Not once have I heard from this church that we’re taking too much on. Not once have I heard the excuse of having their own presents and families to buy for, and not once have a I heard someone emphasize one ministry over another. What I have heard is stories. Stories that are selfless, and kind. Stories that are humorous and joyful. Stories that are filled with tales of anticipation and exhaustion. These stories are inclusive and loving. They bring so many people in, closer together.
What I have heard if stories of Christmas past, stories of traditions. One family shared that everyone in the family always gets a new book for Christmas and in the cover of that book they write special moments and a timeline of things that happened that last year in their lives. At my parents house, my sister and I have started a tradition with each of our soon to be husbands that instead of Ugly Christmas sweaters, the 4 of us exchange Ugly Christmas Pajama pants and then everyone must wear them while we open presents. Just as I sit in my office and write this blog, a man came in and introduced himself. (I’m always amazed by how many people don’t think I recognize them in this congregation, or feel like I’ve never met them). He began talking about a cousin he has that went to Asbury University and stories of when he used to visit him in Wilmore more than 30 years ago. After some times reminiscing and talking of Christmas, he left.
As a pastor, I feel like I was conditioned to think that everyone forgets the true meaning of Christmas, and that my job this season is to continually pull them back to where they belong. I’m finding that in one of my first advent seasons “out of the pew,” that’s not at all what I need to do. People know the story, and they understand why it matters but they want to share it with someone, and I’ve found that beauty in this season. Sharing, reminiscing, and dreaming with everyone about the wonder and the excitement is my job. I’ve really been amazed that people, when reminiscing of their own Christmas find and identify Jesus within it and take great strides to keep a part of it holy. In this season, the “work” has really been removed, and joy and wonder of leading people closer to Jesus through intimately connecting with them has given me a great amount of hope and renewal in a time that is often thought of as draining.
Merry Christmas to you and yours and may his richest blessing flow abundantly when you are surrounded by those that matter most in the coming weeks.