Christmas is so commercial now and I am not the first to point this out. Charlie Brown did it so well in “A Charlie Brown Christmas” trying to see what “Christmas is all about”. But I guess I didn’t realize that I had fallen into that trap of “commercialism” in ministry.
For the last 5 years HHSM has partnered with a program to bless the women that attend a program support group to women in the sex trade. At Christmas time in particular we celebrated by having an annual PJ Party for over 40 women. It consisted of buffet meal, desserts & cookie decorating, game playing and spa treatments. At end the night the women would go home with brand new La Senza pyjamas, slippers and a fabulous gift bag. We also tried to incorporate (as best as we could due to a Jesus “gag order”) the spirit of Christmas by having the women write their wishes on a star that we would put on the tree and later pray for.
Sounds amazing right? Well it was and it wasn’t. Last year we had a celebration with close to 60 women with all that amazing “stuff” & with a frenzy of grabbing and stealing and pushing and shoving and hurried people trying to get in and get out with their stuff. Sounds familiar right?
That is what we experience during the last few weeks of Christmas shopping-hurry up and get in and get out because we have stuff to do. Not sure Jesus enjoys those moments in our life, the moments when he sees us doing all of that. I wanted to stop doing that. Not just during Christmas shopping but more importantly in ministry.
This year I stopped Pyjama night, a decision that was at first very difficult for me. Mostly for my ego. I secretly enjoyed when people at my church would pat me on the back. “A night for those women and wow so many women came this year, Praise God!” I slowly began to realize that God was no longer the focus of this night this CHRISTMAS night, but that instead I developed a numbers game in my head. More and more women are coming that must mean our ministry is really changing lives! WRONG.
There were just numbers no relationships. Oh some chit chat, maybe even some deeper discussion but mostly the women were coming for those amazing new PJs and slippers and some free food. Now that’s okay I would have done the same, I have done the same. But how dare I say “I am ministering to women at Christmas” but focussing the evening on how nice the gift is or how decadent the food is. How can I “preach” the true meaning of Christmas which is the birth of our saviour Jesus Christ who came to have true deep relationship with us on earth and command us to do the same with each other and do the exact opposite? I was such a hypocrite.
Thank God He never lets us go too long before we finally figure things out. Last week our new Christian based support group for women in the sex trade called “A Place for Grace” had their first gathering and Christmas party. To some the evening looked like a flop, compared to last PJ night. We went from 60 women to 2 women. We went from PJs and slippers, a huge buffet full of food a chocolate fountain and amazing STUFF to a quiet sit down dinner. There were homemade cookies, a small bag of goodies to take home and hot chocolate. But something even better happened; the kingdom happened.
As we sat for dinner we all held hands and prayed thanks to the lord for all he has done to provide for this small meal and small moment I began to see a little glimpse of the kingdom. We sat together after dinner and listened quietly to a scared young woman talk about her baby that is due in February. Her fear of loosing him because her addiction has her held hostage. Her fear of keeping him because she thinks she can’t be a good mother. At that moment I realized, this conversation could only happen in the intimacy we now had and the trust we had built. We listened while advice for this young woman came from the best source, an older addict who, with all the love she had in her body, let her know how terrible that is for her baby. With so much wisdom she warned her against what she was doing because “your child is all our child”
We were witness to the ministry between generations of experiences, realizing that fear for this young woman following into her elders footsteps had the elder giving out advice in a hard but loving manner. We were witness to love raw and real and beautiful. There was a kingdom experience breaking through because we finally had the space and the calm to listen and to see it. There was the feeling that Jesus sat right beside us on that couch smiling with relief that I finally figured out what Christmas is all about.
So simple, so lovely, so easy. Just love! That’s Christmas. The birth of undying love and amazing grace.
Merry Christmas and much love to everyone from Helping Hands Street Mission!