My family and I attended a very special, yet non-traditional Christmas Eve service last night in a tent, at Hamilton Mill United Methodist Church.
The theme of the service was “Share the Warmth of Christmas,” since everyone who attended was encouraged to bring either canned goods for The Pantry and/or blankets and coats for the homeless downtown.
This past week, The Pantry had more than one hundred volunteers on-hand, who helped to assemble and provide Christmas meals for approximately two hundred families. Much of the heavy lifting took place days in advance, as members of the congregation brought in food items, and also made monetary contributions to purchase the Christmas meals.
We were truly reminded of warmth – and the lack of it last night, as the winds picked up a few times causing the sides of the tent to flap, and teeth to chatter! I found irony in this, as the day was fairly warm and lacked any wind until an hour or so before the service started.
My favorite part of the Christmas Eve service, whether in a tent or in a sanctuary, is the singing of ‘Silent Night’ as one person turns to another and candles are lit – radiating the entire area with warmth and joy.
As always, the illumination begins with one single candle – one spark.
I spent time with Randy and Glenn last Saturday, as they acted upon a spark.
Both decided that they felt led to provide toys to the families of those coming out to receive meals from The Pantry last weekend. Randy said, “We just want the parents to have something to put under the tree for their children on Christmas morning.”
A spark that was initiated more than a month ago, providing heat and light that can only take place when we begin tackle a challenge that is bigger than ourselves – and is only possible with the direct guidance of God’s hand.
And the light did spread, as Randy and Glenn asked members of the congregation to bring in toys in advance. The warmth of the light intensified as Boy Scout and Girl Scout troops affiliated with the church brought in toys.
Families who asked for assistance a few weeks in advance had bags of toys prepared for them, with names attached to each bag. Additional toys were organized by age group, and gender.
One could almost sense the brightness of the light as Randy and Glenn organized the toys in their home.
Last Saturday morning I met Randy, Glenn and their grandson at the church. Glenn was dressed as Santa, and Randy arrived as a highly organized elf with a list containing names and wishes of 119 children.
I arrived with my son and one of his friends from middle school. The three of us were able to figure out Randy’s system quickly, since quite a bit of advance preparation was handled by Randy and Glenn.
Last Saturday it was as if the entire meaning of Christmas was unveiled right there before us, as we worked with parents to find just the right gifts for their children.
For me personally, it was all about the interactions with parents – the discussions we had about the ages of each child, as well as their interests. It was about the kind words, hugs, and time spent.
While advance preparations were made for 119 children, a total of 302 children were provided for during the two hour period.
One spark ignited and acted upon, cultivated and moved gently forward by the hand of God, embraced by others who act as God’s hands and feet, and fully completed can generate quite a bit of heat and light!
Whether a spark is generated and spread during the Christmas season, in an outdoor tent service, or a number of other places throughout the year, it is truly a beautiful thing to witness.