I’ve been dreaming about it since we first felt called to plant a church. I can’t even really explain why. But now that we’ve done it for the first time, I’m more convinced than ever that this is going to be an annual thing. I’d like us to be known for it in our community. I’d like it to be a means by which we can invite an ever-broadening community of friends and neighbors to our annual New Years party. And I’m praying that it becomes a vehicle for the gospel and to bless our neighbors that glorifies God and changes lives.
What is it?
Long before the Christmas season was upon us, we decided as a church that we wanted to go Christmas caroling this year. But not just any old Christmas carols! We wanted to make cookies, deliver them to neighbors, distribute Christmas cards, sing and share about Jesus, and bless some folks at a nearby Senior Living center during a lonely COVID-soaked holiday season.
And we did.
It was wonderful!
Here’s the story.
Oh my, did the icing flow!
The Big Idea
The goal was to proclaim the gospel and bless people.
What better way to tell about Jesus than to sing about His coming at Christmas!? Jesus’ being born as a baby in a manger 2,000 years is way more than a heartwarming Hallmark moment. This is the transcendent God of the universe who created everything deciding that a sin soaked humanity is worth saving. This is God not leaving us as orphans, but coming for us … that we might dwell forever with Him. If you haven’t recently, stop and ponder … the God who needs nothing and is so pure and so perfect that He dwells in unapproachable light … this God wants you to dine at His table with Him forever. That’s amazing! That’s the story of Christmas! So, we decided to sing.
And what better way to bless people than to come to their door — masks on — and sing and give gifts and invite them to serve some people with us. The Parkway Gardens Senior Living center is just outside our subdivision. It is home to a number of folks who don’t get out much, especially during the year of COVID. And the holidays can be lonely and difficult for some at the best of times. So, we didn’t just want to sing to neighbors, we wanted to sing to these neighbors AND invite our neighbors to join us. The plan was to stop at each house on the way from our place to the senior living center, sing, give cookies and card, and then invite them to throw on coats and join us in our caroling adventure, ending up at Parkway Gardens.
So, that’s what we did!
Warning the Neighbors
But we didn’t just show up that Sunday.
We wanted to warn people we were coming so that they (especially the kids) didn’t miss out on Christmas caroling — a vanishingly rare bringer of joy in our time. But more than that, we wanted our neighbors to be mentally prepared so that there’d be at least a chance they might join us.
So, a week before the event, we dropped a brief “FYI” notice at each house along the route to let them know we’d be stopping by.
Did you see that? The Andes Mints melt!
When the weekend finally arrived, the church assembled at our home on Saturday. We purchased a ton of ingredients, planned the recipes, borrowed extra bakeware, and showed up ready to rock! Everyone participated, creating a sugary assembly line of buttery goodness that filled the house with the smells of Christmas. We made (and decorated!) sugar cookies, oatmeal chocolate chippers, double chocolate mint, gingerbread, and more. It was amazing. We spent the entire afternoon baking and packaging up the cookies, then ordered pizza and kicked back to survey our work. And it was good!
In the end, we made 500 cookies and staged 50 beautifully wrapped plates of cookies, complete with personalized, branded Christmas cards, ready to distribute to our neighbors.
… and Caroling
After the gathering of the church for Sunday morning celebration and fellowship feast, we loaded up Santa’s sleigh with cookies, broke into two teams, and headed down both sides of the street. If folks weren’t home or didn’t come to the door (there were a few), we left a card in the mailbox. If they answered, we gave them cookies, a card about Jesus, sang a few carols, and then invited them to join us on our way to the nursing home. Nobody joined us (totally okay!), but many were really blessed by the whole affair. Particularly the kids loved it!
Singing for the Seniors
The director of Parkway Gardens was thrilled to have us visit. We sang our hearts out at two building entrances, as well as outside one woman’s room who was under COVID quarantine. We distributed cards to every resident and cookies to the staff. We also had setup a coffee and cocoa station in the parking lot for singers to warm up and gather. Surprisingly, there was piles of cookies there too. Not sure how that happened!
Making them pretty!
A Great Blessing
This whole thing was a huge blessing!
First, the act of working together on something this large and intricate was a gift in and of itself. What a blast! And what an opportunity to practice the one-another’s of Scripture.
Second, something like 35 households heard the gospel in the form of Christmas carols. And all 44 of the houses on our route received a personalized Christmas card.
Third, we encountered one woman who had recently lost her husband. We were able to pray for her and follow-up with her, bringing her a meal and flowers and generally just being a friend to her in the intervening weeks. What a blessing to us! Praise the Lord for making her need so obvious to us, so that we could serve her.
And we were able to be a joyful shining light for people at Parkway Gardens who have no doubt wrestled with loneliness this year.
Personalizing the Christmas cards…
Not just a Hallmark moment, but a statement of love!
Next year, we’re SO doing that again! And hopefully COVID will be a thing of the past and we can include with these Christmas cards an invitation to join us for New Years, when we worship and pray, remember the Lord and look forward to His presence and power in a new year..
In the meantime, next time you make cookies or sing a Christmas carol, pray for our church and our neighbors. The Lord is at work here, and we can’t wait to see what comes next!
Gathered at Parkway Cardens, ready for post-caroling cocoa
… and more cookies!