I am still smiling from a great experience two nights ago. Rev. Kate May and the Grubbs family from our church had the incredible experience to go and worship with El Aposento Alto- an Hispanic Wesleyan Church here in Winston Salem. At this service the children and youth presented their Christmas pageant. There was singing and dancing and kids dressed in various costumes came forward and created the birth of Jesus tableau. Part was in Spanish and part was in English. The mechanics of what happened I’ve seen a hundred times. But how it happened – was spirit filled and the most joy I have witnessed all in one room in a long time.
The building was very simple and the worhsip space certainly lacked the architectural grandeur that our sanctuary has. But the creativity in how they had decorated their worship space blew me away- it was both cool and beautiful. These children and youth (and even the few adults that had a part) were dressed up and looking beautiful. Their faces as they stood on the stage was filled with more than just the bright light shining on them. They efused a sense of inhibition and humor that came across as if they were having the most fun. I found the sides of my own mouth creeping up into an
hour-long smile. (That was until I had to stand up and speak. Following that act and what was to happen after me was very sobering! Who wanted to hear a white person talk about “The Gifts for a King”!) It was in a way, as if I was seeing the same story again for the first time. Whether I was hearing Spanish or English, I knew exactly what they were saying.
Now why was I there? This church has been one of our partners for over 11 years with our Angel Tree. I realized that the children I was seeing singing and dancing before me where the same children whose names had been on one of our Angel Trees. At one point I admit there was a feeling of “here are the white people who have a seat of honor and have bestowed great gifts for our children” feeling and it was kind of icky and uncomfortable. But that faded pretty quickly when I experienced the genuine presence of joy and gratitude that filled the room. And that joy and gratitude was directed to the correct source Jesus Christ -not Centenary United Methodist Church.
After an hour of singing, dancing and drama, I shared a few words on behalf of our church in pitiful Spanish and then thankfully through a translator, then the presents were dispersed. Well, actually, they spent 5 minutes thanking us first. They had all the youth and young adults stand up that ever received gifts through this Angel Tree program and all the youth that had been in the drama and some of the young adults stood up with huge smiles on their faces. The gratitude that bubbled up in that room almost brought tears to my eyes. I so wish that you Centenarians that bought gifts for the Angel Tree could have been there with us to experience it. Of course as the gifts were being given out the feeling in the room was electric! Some of the bags were bigger than the children. The packages were taken home to go under Christmas Trees so we did not get to witness the joy of them opening their gifts. But in many ways, I think that would have been anticlimactic.
I kind of hope I get to go back next year. To worship with this sister church and be bombarded with the joy and love for Jesus that was in that place has kept me smiling during this very hectic and über busy week. I wish, as a worship leader, I could capture just a fraction of the energy in that room and bring it to our own sanctuary. And I wish you could comprehend the joy that was expressed towards our church becasue of your generosity and thoughtfulness . I promised I would share their words of gratitude with our church. Consider yourself thanked and blessed for sharing a little bit of God’s love with El Aposento Alto. I know I have been blessed by something so much more powerful than a sharing of gifts. Once again, in a unique way, I was reminded that you don’t have to have much in order to share the love of Jesus Christ and to feel real and authentic, even uninhibited joy. Join me next year if you want a little bit of that!