Our Sr. High Youth Group go to the Mall to find the Meaning of Christmas

As a youth group, each year we do a Christmas party in our beloved youth room affectionately called The Fireside Room (it has a fireplace and it it’s a room and since I’m not extreme youth pastor, I have no plans to rename to rename it to the “Inferno Room” or “House Ablaze” … anyway).   In previous years, we had the coffee bar going, the carols, I would give a brief Christmas reflection, we may tell a story, and then of course, the White Elephant exchange.   Well I Well, I love Silent Night, and Rudolph and I pretty much like all the Christmas traditions (sacred and secular) including the White Elephant thing as much as the next guy but it was time to do something different.

I tried to volunteer our group to throw a Christmas party at either a children’s hospital or an assisted living/nursing home.  No one wanted us.  We may have a terrible reputation that I am unaware of or it points to groups and individuals focus on this time of year more than other times. 

In keeping with our “you can’t ruin Christmas theme”, I had asked them to bring $5 Starbucks money and our evening began at a outdoor nativity at a nearby Catholic church.  Reminding them of the infamous Talladega Nights scene where Ricky Bobby prays to baby Jesus, I shared with our students that this was how we usually picture Jesus, laying asleep in the manger.  The meaning of Christmas is so much bigger and everywhere. 

After breaking up into our small groups, their assignment was to find moments of Christmas and to find ways how they could be bring a moment of its meaning to others in the mall.  The rules were simple, they could not spend any of the money on themselves or on anyone on their Christmas list.  We were here for to experience God and the “other”.

It was great; two groups got together and bought several coats and donated them to a coat drive.  Some even gave their own coats.  One girl tried to give her money to one who sold trinkets and cheap jewelry from one of those little stands that are outside bigger retailers.  The lady gave her 5 sets of earrings that her group got wrapped by those who were raising money for cancer research and then gave the 5 gift wrappers the earrings they just wrapped.  They were several other stories but it was evident from the stories like that, they were catching the point. 

The meaning of Christmas is captured in many places including at the mall watching families and people shopping for others.  Not everyone is giving out of formality, some will actually be a blessing.  Some are making gifts that will do a similar thing. Many are donating their time, their coats, their resources.  It’s my opinion that we tend to look to much to the negative and annoying aspects of the holiday and overlook moments like these.  Even in the den of commercialization and materialism, we can remember the love of Christ.  No one may have gotten saved (or saved again) but all of us were encouraged, strangers were blessed and I believe God was glorified more by this than another party in our beloved Fireside Room.  

After we exchanged our stories, I told them the legend-story of the candy cane.  You probably heard it or something like it.  A candy maker some 300 years ago gave out these shepherd-shaped sugar sticks to children who behaved during the church Christmas concert that had a Jesus the Great Shepherd theme.  Later the story evolved to the shape is a “J” theme for the baby Jesus and the red stripe was symbolic of his blood.  Yes, even candy can be redeemed and for those who are searching and celebrating Christmas, nothing can ruin its meaning.  

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