Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Christmas Memories of Springfield Friends Meeting

The average church-goer has no idea the madhouse a church becomes during the Christmas season- especially for church staff. You think Black Friday is crazy for retailers? That's a one day sprint. Working at a church in December is a marathon. It's nuts. It's ridiculous. And it's the most wonderful time of the year! Every church I ever served had wonderful traditions for the Advent and Christmas seasons, even if some them did wear me out. But I love the memories that were made over the years. And some of the very best times were at Springfield Friends Meeting (1986-1994).  

Quakers don't actually do Advent in the traditional sense, but the preparations were much the same. I have never seen a worship room that looked better when decorated for the Christmas season than the one at Springfield. It was simply gorgeous every year.  In those days the first weekend of December was set aside for Friend Day, a major outreach event for the church. It required a fair amount of planning, and it was tempting to breathe a sigh of relief when it was done. But in fact, the runaway snowball that was Christmas at SFM was just beginning. Over the following weeks every adult Sunday class would have a dinner party. Every women's "Circle" would have a party- including the epic Cookie Exchange that had my wife and her friends each baking 12 dozen cookies to share in what now seems like a completely insane event! People we never saw any other time would throw parties. And the Pastors (myself and Max Rees) and our wives were not merely invited. We were EXPECTED to be at every party. It was quite a marathon, but it was a labor of love.

And this was just one couch full of youth...
The party season usually ended for us when we would host the youth ministry Christmas party at our home. Our home was beyond tiny, yet we would cram nearly 50 people in for an evening no one ever wanted to miss. In the later years, after the first party would end a second party would break out for the youth group "alumni"- those who had graduated and were home for the holidays from college or wherever. It was always one of my favorite nights of the year.

And then the season's grand finale came with the Christmas Eve candlelight service. Springfield was not a large church, so there was one service at 7 PM. I would put luminaries around the sidewalks and the parking lot. There would be amazing special music. a homily from Max, and then the candle lighting. The entire gathered group would circle the meeting room, united as the family of God in celebration of the birth of the Christ-child. It was always the perfect finish to a wonderful month. No matter where I am on Christmas Eve, I am still aware of my Springfield family and the worship taking place in High Point, NC. 

There are many who lament the busyness of churches this time of year, concerned that the institution just adds to the hustle and bustle of the season and draws attention away from the true meaning of Christmas. And they are at least partly right. But all of the parties and gatherings also help solidify relationships and build connections among church members and the staff that serves them. I may have occasionally complained back in the day about attending a Christmas party thrown by 70 year old women, but I would not trade anything for the great times we shared. The first Christmas was loaded with hustle and bustle too- that's how Mary and Joseph ended up in a barn. It's just part of the deal. And I PROMISE you this - the connections built in my years at Springfield are still so strong almost 20 years after I left that if I could hop in my car and be there for Christmas Eve, I would. In a heartbeat. Just to be part of the circle of candlelight and to be able to say "Merry Christmas" to some of the best people I know. So I'll say it here instead- Merry Christmas, Springfield family! I love you guys.

Jesus- the only hope for me is you- and YOU alone!

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