When Christmas Comes for Everyone

When does Christmas come for everyone? When star-children erase the margins by coloring outside the lines. Several years ago, star-children in Birmingham were led by the Holy Spirit to throw a giant Christmas party for homeless mothers and children who live in shelters affiliated with Cass Community Social Services in Detroit. It’s a way in which a vital suburban church can share the joy of this season with those for whom Santa might not otherwise come.

At 6 p.m. buses roll up to the entrance of the Fellowship Hall. Our guests arrive a half hour early, so we improvise. The first thing we do is take a picture of each family. Children range from teenagers to babies just a few weeks old. One of the shelters, Mom’s Place, is for women who are in recovery and their children. It fills a specialized need because there are few shelters in Detroit where teenage boys can live with their mothers.

20131216-1

As we begin printing out the photos with a portable printer, children, teens, mothers, church members, and a local Girl Scout troop mingle and get to know each other, all star-children.

Star-Child, earth-child, go-between of God,
Love child, Christ child, heaven’s lightning rod.
This year, this year, let the day arrive
When Christmas comes for everyone, everyone alive. 
(The Faith We Sing #2095; Words by Shirley Erena Murray)

We serve pizza, salad, fruit, pop, and cookies. I go around the table, introducing myself and asking if I can get them anything.

“I’m getting a sore throat. Do you have any orange juice?”

“Coming right up.”

“Is there any pizza left?”

“Sure! What kind do you want?”

“The food is great. Thank you so much.”

“What a beautiful baby you have.”

“She’s just 5 weeks old.”

Our guests are star-children, just like everyone else. The only difference is that they are living in a shelter. They have almost no personal space, few possessions, and, at times, seemingly little hope. Yet they’re all smiling because on this night Christmas has come for everyone.

Street child, beat child, no place left to go,
Hurt child, used child, no one wants to know,
This year, this year, let the day arrive
When Christmas comes for everyone, everyone alive.

Shortly after 7 p.m. we move to the Christian Life Center, which was built ten years ago specifically to serve and nurture star-children. The teenage boys play a pick-up basketball game and glide effortlessly through the air, just like stars in the sky. Our volunteers assist the little boys at baskets that are lowered for their size.

On the other side of the gym the Girl Scouts are leading a craft where everyone can make frames for their family pictures. Last year the Girl Scouts collected children’s books and allowed the children to pick several for themselves. Our guests can also decorate Christmas cookies to take with them. Volunteers hold babies and help young children.

20131216-2

Meanwhile, Santa has arrived, and more individual and family pictures are taken and developed. Our original Santa called in sick, but a willing substitute arrives with a jolly smile and stardust in his eyes. Children oogle Santa and jump into his arms, while mothers hope in their hearts for better times ahead.

20131216-3

Grown child, old child, memory full of years,
Sad child, lost child, story told in tears,
This year, this year, let the day arrive
When Christmas comes for everyone, everyone alive.

At 8 p.m. we draw the circle wide around the piano for singing Christmas carols. “Jingle Bells,” “Deck the Halls,” “Santa Claus is Coming to Town,” and “We Wish You a Merry Christmas” never sounded so sweet. We end with prayer.

20131216-4

Meanwhile, another group of volunteers is arranging beautiful Christmas gifts for our guests. We were expecting twenty-two moms and fifty-one children, but many more came. Fortunately, we had purchased two gifts per star-child and mother, so we did the loaves and fishes thing.

Gifts are neatly arranged by gender and age, and Christmas comes for everyone, not just for our guests, but especially for the volunteers, who had the privilege of hugs, laughter, smiles of joy, and stardust.

Spared child, spoiled child, having, wanting more,
Wise child, faith child, knowing joy in store,
This year, this year, let the day arrive
When Christmas comes for everyone, everyone alive.

After the gifts are distributed, our guests return by bus to Detroit, and we go back to our homes. No, our homes are not the same. Our guests live in shelters, yet they are cared for by a United Methodist ministry that specializes in creating star-children out of discarded, unwanted, rejected, and down-on-their-luck mothers and children in a bankrupt city.  Christmas came for everyone that night.

The next morning the mother of a child in our Preschool comes into the church and donates beds, cribs, high chairs, car seats, books, and clothing to Cass Community Social Services. She is not even a church member. The margins are disappearing. When all is said and done, our world changes every time we remember that each person on our planet is a star-child through whom God’s light shines. And all star-children belong to one another.

Hope-for-peace child, God’s stupendous sign,
Down-to-earth child, Star of stars that shine,
This year, this year, let the day arrive
When Christmas comes for everyone, everyone alive.

Last Thursday, Christmas came for everyone – for our guests, the Girl Scouts, shoppers, cooks, volunteers, Santa, and for everyone alive.  For a few hours we became family to one another. The light shone bright, hope penetrated our hearts, each soul felt its worth, and we all became star-children, God’s stupendous sign. O holy night.

Blessings,
Laurie

P.S. The next Leading from the Heart will be published on Monday, January 6.

11 thoughts on “When Christmas Comes for Everyone

  1. Dear Laurie,

    I’m here on Beaumont’s wifi catching up on things while Chris gets his new hip (should be done around 5), and find myself needing to wipe a few tears while reading about the star-children. There’s so much to be done, it’s easy to feel hopeless and helpless. So thanks for interpreting our ministry so beautifully. You are the story teller we need to make sure we never lose hope. Blessings to you. Get some rest!

    DH

  2. I love reading these but for some reason I can’t seem to get them to print for Bob.
    We remember you miss you but believe you are in the right place – Well of course, God sent you there!
    Your messsges are always so inspirational.

  3. What a wonderful memory for the families you were able to minister to. Looks like it was a great evening for everyone involved.
    Wishing you, Gary, and your family a very Merry Christmas. We miss you….

  4. Everything you said was and is so true. Please try to come to the Cass Christmas Store on Monday at Cass and Selden. We make a ” store” on Sunday with donated new coats, clothing, gifts, toys and gift cards out of a recreation area. On Monday until 6 pm the families come and shop and pick out just exactly what they want for their kids . Then they receive gift wrap, scissors, bows and tags to make their presents which they have to store til Christmas in big black bags. It is really Christmas in that room! Joy

  5. Wow, Laurie! Beautiful summary! It was so nice that a caring friend was willing and able to be Santa on only a few hours notice. I loved being just a small part of this. MERRY CHRISTMAS to you, Gary and your family. Can’t wait for what God has in store for all of us in 2014.

  6. Wow! Such a neat ministry! I was glad to be able to be there and enjoy it all. Thank you for the beautiful summary. MERRY CHRISTMAS to you, Gary and your family. I can’t wait to experience God with you and our faith community in 2014! We are truly blessed to have you and Gary!

  7. THANK YOU Laurie for your inspirational writing at a most appropriate time of year. God bless your continued ministry. We miss you. Merry Christmas.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *