Like many bleary-eyed parents, we were awakened at 4:30 am this morning and our toddler’s first words were, “It’s Christmas! Let’s open presents!”
But unlike every other Christmas before in our family, we woke the children before they were ready, and then made them wait more than five hours before opening presents. And they agree it was the best Christmas morning ever.
We awoke at 4:30 so we could be at the New Ministries Church by 5:30, ready to serve the hundreds of needy families already beginning to line up at the front doors. Pastor Brenda Stevenson’s church in a declining North Charlotte neighborhood has served meals and toys to low-income, in-crisis, and homeless families for more than 25 years. This year is special because Pastor Stevenson had a leg partially amputated several months ago and three weeks after coming home from the hospital was serving Thanksgiving dinner:
The ministry is special because it’s one of the few places in Charlotte where families are welcomed to serve with their children. Monty and Eli and Everett were hugged and loved as much as if we’d been members there for years and, most importantly, the oldest two were given meaningful work to perform. Monty arranged last-minute toy donations:
Later, he helped distribute packages of age- and gender-appropriate gifts to each family in accordance with their needs. Meanwhile, for several hours Eli ran boxes of food from the service line to the staging area, where they were prepared for delivery to the families being steadily seated in the sanctuary out front.
Both children were troopers, angels to make a mother proud. Not one complaint, not one peep of discontent, both were totally focused on helping, on making a difference in the world. That didn’t stop them, however, from being rather wiped out by the end:
Even Everett was patient, despite his early-morning proclamation. The poor kid was so exhausted he collapsed before opening even one present:
On the way home, Monty noted that the church was “different than [Quaker] Meeting [for Worship].” Indeed. It was loud, energetic, full of speaker-amplified music and zealous preaching combined with the constant murmuring, shouting, dancing, clapping response of an enthusiastically participating audience.
In every way, a completely different Christmas experience. One to remember and, I hope, repeat. Best Christmas morning ever.