Merry Christmas! Celebrate the Light!

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Merry Christmas! Celebrate the Light!

A blog by Roberta Jantzi Egli

“The true light that shines on all people was coming into the world”
~John 1: 9 (CEB)

Are you all prepared to celebrate the light of Jesus Christ that has come for all people? I must be honest that I am not ready… there are still many items on my list and I am at the point now that I know that not all of those items will get crossed off. I shared with my step-mother this morning that although I am not ready for Christmas, the day will come whether I am ready or not. I know from experience that Christmas will be a day of celebration whether or not I get all the items on my list completed.

My friends, it is GOOD NEWS that Christmas comes to us whether we are prepared or not! As John’s gospel proclaims, we can be confident that Jesus the Christ will come to us daily bringing light, love and light to all.

I am reminded of the poem by Howard Thurman and accompanying picture that has been circulating around the internet this December.

I will light candles this Christmas,
Candles of joy despite all the sadness,
Candles of hope where despair keeps watch,
Candles of courage for fears ever present,
Candles of peace for tempest-tossed days,
Candles of grace to ease heavy burdens,
Candles of love to inspire all my living,
Candles that will burn all year long.

~ Howard Thurman

The Christmas season is difficult for many people. I live in the Pacific Northwest and as we approach the longest night of the year, I yearn for the return of the light. My mother died on the day after Christmas many years ago and even today, I still think of that bittersweet time of being together as a family while saying our goodbyes to our mother. God was present with us around the Christmas tree as well as around her bed as we sang Christmas carols to her.

My prayer my friends, is that you will light candles of joy, hope, courage, peace, grace and love not only during this season of Christmas and Epiphany but for the whole year long. I am so grateful for the ministry of Messy Church that invites people to bring all of their joys and sadness, doubt and celebrations, young and old to the light of Christ.

Merry Christmas and Celebrate the Light!

Roberta Egli, Executive Director, Messy Church USA


An Unexpected Gift

By Lindsey Goodyear

The beginning of December is usually a reminder for me to kick it into high gear and start Christmas shopping, dig up our Elf on the Shelf (Lord only knows where I stuck him from the previous year), and remember to give each of our boys their advent gift for those first 25 days while desperately trying to reiterate what the advent period is actually about. In the dictionary, advent is described as the arrival of a notable person, thing, or event. For my kids, advent means presents. We work hard to remind them that there is more to Christmas than gifts, but, in their defense, gift giving is a part of Christmas. We give gifts to family, the Wise Men brought gifts for Jesus, and, of course, His birth, continues to stand as the greatest gift God has ever given to us. See? Gifts everywhere!

All the obsession over giving and receiving gifts got me thinking about the gifts we give at Messy Church. I’d like to think that we, as a Messy Church team, give gifts to our congregation every month. They may not be the literal gifts wrapped in a bow, but gifts that have a deeper meaning. The gift of a place to feel safe, connected, understood, loved, and supported. The gift of our members making a connection with a particular story, song, or activity. The gift of our children finding an indisputable understanding of what God’s love means, in their life, as they grow. What I didn’t think about is the gifts we receive from the attendees, as well. That’s why, going into our event on the first Saturday of the month, I never expected the gift I’d come away with.

I walked into our Messy Advent event to see the beautiful face of my friend, Mel.  I was grateful to have met her through the United Methodist preschool where her daughter and my son attended.  Over the years, she had expressed wanting to come to Messy Church, but life sometimes gets in the way.  I was over the moon to see what she thought of her first Messy gathering.  Of course it was a whirlwind of a night and I didn’t get a chance to talk to her at the end of the evening.  However, the next morning I woke to one of the most beautiful and meaningful texts I had ever received.  The words she used to describe the feeling she got from attending Messy Church brought tears to my eyes.  I immediately asked if I could interview her for my blog and she graciously obliged.

Here are the unedited, kind words from my good friend, Mel:

Me: Tell me a little about yourself.

Mel: I’ve been a resident of Huntington Beach since 2000. I’m a single parent (didn’t start off that way, but life got “messy”) to one precious six year old girl.

Me: How did you hear about Messy Church?

Mel: We attended CUMC preschool and heard about it from friends. We’ve always been interested in going but hadn’t been able to schedule it until now.

Me: With many options for worship around here, what made you take a chance on Messy Church?

Mel: We knew a few people that were already attending and had heard good things. It kept coming up over the past few months from others who have attended and we realized we shouldn’t ignore it any longer. And so, we showed up!

Me: What was the theme of the Messy Church you attended?

Mel: We were at the December event which was all centered around Christmas and the birth of Jesus.

Me: What was the vibe upon entrance? What did you notice?

Mel: We were greeted by a lovely young woman who welcomed us and gave us a brown paper bag personalized in black sharpie.

Me: Anything that made you uncomfortable?

Mel: Nope. Everyone was nice.

Me: What was the most memorable moment for you?

Mel: Two things: Our time in the chapel and especially singing together. I loved the conversations I had with my daughter during the activities. She’s maturing in her faith.

Me: Was there anything missing? Something you wished you had more of?

Mel: Only because you are asking but perhaps a place to safely put your painted crafts while they are drying. I’m pretty sure we got blue paint on the wall. Sorry!

Me: What made Messy Church different than traditional church for you?

Mel: Everything about Messy Church is different than traditional church. I love that I never put my kid in some room and then went off to make small talk with other adults and their spouses. Just my daughter and I are my family. We’re not a traditional family but we are one. It was nice that we could stay together. Doing the crafts and activities gave us a chance to talk without distractions. I found myself asking her questions and explaining things to her in simple terms. Each activity was charming and offered a chance to talk about something different. There was so much to do and I was impressed by the sheer number of volunteers. It looked like a labor of love.

Lindsey and Leyla conveyed in about 10 minutes what some pastors require an hour for. “Jesus came into a messy world because He loves us.”

It reminded me that I could worship wherever I am, just as I am: messy.

Mel: (cont) There’s also something sweet about sharing a meal with families. That was one of the first meals I can remember in a long time that I sat down the entire time with my child. At home during meals, I’m up every few minutes, getting and cleaning things (and high fives to the genius who recognizes ranch is a necessity with pizza!). It was a very sweet touch to have table tents with conversation starters.

I appreciate that it took a lot of coordination and manpower to pull off this event. I was also moved by its simplicity. There were no “smoke and mirrors,” just love and consideration. It could have taken place in any of the past five decades. I was moved to be one of the many voices, singing to God, surrounded by candles, led by a single guitar. The message was short and sweet (the most powerful ideas usually are). Lindsey and Leyla conveyed in about 10 minutes what some pastors require an hour for. “Jesus came into a messy world because He loves us.”

It reminded me that I could worship wherever I am, just as I am: messy.

Me: Do you think you’ll attend Messy Church again?

Mel: I’ll 100% be returning. My daughter definitely wants to return. She loved it and I’ve already invited others!

Merry Christmas from our Messy family to yours!

Lindsey Goodyear blogs monthly for Messy Church USA. She is a Messy Church mom and leader at Community UMC in Huntington Beach, California.  You can reach her at lindseygoodyear@gmail.com

 

Merry Messy Christmas from Messy Church USA!

Written by Roberta J. Egli

Our website is now online! After months – it felt like years at times- the Messy Church USA website is ready for you to check out at www.messychurchusa.org.  A Christmas miracle and a gift to you! A big thanks to Bet Hannon and the developers at Affordable Church Website Program who spent hours working with the Messy Church USA board to create the site.

The six month process of creating content, revising, editing, revising again has been both a big blessing and a challenge! The work has reminded me that reality does not always meet my unrealistic expectations and that creating, developing and creating a large project is a messy process. I also know that this is just the beginning of keeping the website dynamic and up to date. These quotes are a good reminder for me as we launch the website and also celebrate the miracle of Christmas.

“Beginnings are always messy” ~ John Galsworthy

“Life itself is a haphazard, untidy, messy affair” ~ Dorothy Day

“People are messy; therefore, relationships will be messy.
Don’t be surprised by messiness.” ~ Timothy Keller

Establishing a non-profit, signing a licensed agreement with Bible Reading Fellowship, planning and hosting a Messy Church USA national conference and getting a website developed has been messy work these past six months. Something that we learned from one project affected the other projects. A question from the web developer caused a change in our business plan. It has been a glorious mess!

Relaxing after the Getting Messy in USA conference at Pastor Ginny’s home. In Laguna Beach, CA.

Back Row: Roberta and Lynn Egli, Leyla Wagner, Ginny Wheeler, Lindsey Goodyear, Marty Drake

Front Row:  Lucy Moore, Martyn Payne and Stephen Fischbacher

I am reminded that things did not go as planned for Mary and Joseph in the beginning of Jesus life on earth. Rather than a comfortable home, the biblical story has Jesus born in the mess of a stable. The smell of the barnyard accompanied the birth of Jesus rather than the smell of a wonderful home cooked meal.

Where are you experiencing the coming of the incarnate in the mess of new beginnings in your life and ministry?

I have heard from a number of you who have started Messy Churches recently and have had frustrations with either not enough people or more people than expected. Starting something new is messy. We make plans and then are surprised by reality.

I have heard from others who are more experienced in all things Messy Church. Over the years, you have learned to go with the flow and trust the unexpected. The hope of creating Messy Church USA is that we can all learn from one another as we network and share our experiences.

In closing, I would like to share a poem by the John O’Donahue that has become a mantra for me as I have let go of my need to ‘know’ and control life and have begun the process of trusting life.

“I would love to live
Like a river flows,
Carried by the surprise
Of its own unfolding.”
(John O Donahue)

Wishing you all a very Merry Christmas and I look forward to a surprising, messy, unfolding 2018!

Roberta
Rock Painted Nativity from Aldersgate UMC, Aldersgate, South Carolina