December 31, 2018 Update from Matt McCoy:
As we approached the end of Advent, we continued to put ourselves in the Christmas Story by playing Follow the Leader. On Friday 21 December, we went to the Lighthouse Mission and spent the afternoon putting together gift bags. These gift bags will be handed out to the Guests at the Mission at the conclusion of the Christmas Eve service.
I love entering the Christmas Story through working alongside our friends, getting to know each other, and helping share the love of Jesus with people in a physical, practical way.
On the one hand, it’s merely the classic gift items at a homeless shelter: socks, soap, deodorant, hat, gloves, candy canes, and a handwritten note all wrapped up in a gift bag. But on the other hand, it’s a way to help the Guests at the Mission know that we see them, we care about them, we love them, and we want them to get something meaningful for Christmas. And it’s a good opportunity for us to stop and be reminded that this is a very hard time of year for Guests at the Mission, because they tend to feel the pain of being separated from their family and friends even more than usual.
We all have difficulty navigating the hurts, issues, and frustrations of being a part of a family and being a part of a community. Packing these gift bags is a good reminder of what really matters.
After we finished up, we put all the gift bags in a van to store them until Christmas Eve…
**Note: We spent the Christmas Eve service at the Drop In Center at the Lighthouse. There’s no photography in the Drop In Center, so I’m afraid I won’t have any photos to show you, but here’s a brief description.***
This is a strange King, and this is a strange Kingdom. Instead of Jesus coming in power, Jesus emptied himself and came as a baby. Instead of angels announcing the arrival of Jesus to the important and powerful people, the angles made their announcement to foreigners and shepherds, a very disrespected occupation in those days. Celebrating Christmas Eve at the Mission is a beautiful way to play follow the leader, as we worship Jesus among people foreign to us, among the disrespected, alongside those on the margins.
We started off by lighting the advent candles, and giving a brief explanation of how the wreath represents the world, and the lighting of candles represents the coming of the Light of Christ. We sang some Christmas carols, and then Hans (the Executive Director for the Mission) shared the Christmas Story with us.
Then it was Open Mic time at the Mission, and the Guests had the chance to share what they were thankful for, where they’d seen Jesus this last year, and what they were hopeful for. The folks at the Drop In Center have a hard life, and the things they shared reflect the challenge of their circumstances. And, in the midst of their pain, they find God. It’s a good lesson for all of us in the midst of our own struggles.
As a father of three inquisitive and interactive children, I’ve received all sorts of negative feedback when it comes to attending worship services. Like, I’ve heard it all: This Church is boring, I don’t understand your preaching, what is the point of all this?, why are we even here? One of the things I love about the Christmas Eve service at the Mission is that, even if they don’t necessarily want to be there, they can immediately understand that this is a thing worth doing. This is a service worth being a part of, and they’re woven into a Christmas Story that is bigger than themselves. It’s a good lesson for them, it’s a good reminder for me, and it’s a great way to celebrate Christmas.
O come Immanuel….