The Best Christmas Party EVER

This past weekend, I asked all my CSA customers about their Christmas'. Answers ranged from "Great" to "glad they are over". This Christmas was special to me because several families we grow food for had new additions of baby girls. Christmas is always special, but even more so when you are holding a little one! I hope you all had a wonderful time, some folks in Colorado sure did.
I have been in on this story for a while because it took place at my Mom and Stepfather's church in Colorado. It started out with their pastor asking everyone in the congregation to sell something of value to them and donate the money to the church in order to have a Christmas Party for some folks in Gunnison. The rest, well it is quite simply a God story. Please read for yourself an account of a party-volunteer.

The Best Christmas Party Ever written by Joe

I've been to some pretty crazy parties in my time, but none as crazy as this one. I'm not really a big party guy these days. You're more likely to find me at church on Christmas Eve than at a party, but this year I got to do both at once. The Anglo church that sponsors the Hispanic Church I go to threw an incredible party for 107 people whose names they got from the local welfare office. Unbeknownst to my Anglo friends, about half the names they received were of Mexican families. So mis hermanos mexicanos and I got to be hosts and servers for about 50 Hispanic immigrants at a truly extravagant celebration. (Luke 14:13-14 NIV: "When you give a banquet, invite the poor…and YOU will be blessed.")

It all started when the Anglo pastor preached on Luke 18:22: "Sell all you have and give to the poor." Not a verse you hear too many sermons on. It's one of those we tend to avoid, along with much of Jesus' teaching. He challenged all in his congregation to choose one thing of theirs that they valued and sell it. They did. And this small church in a small town raised over $11,000 to give to the poor! So what better way to do that than throw a party!

First off they reserved the local event center; not that big a place, but the biggest we've got here. Then they called to invite all the people, and to find out names and ages of everyone and what they needed or wanted for Christmas, especially the children. After paying for the Hall and the catered meal and all the cool decorations (not to mention the framed family pictures taken in front of the big Fir tree) they had about $60 a person to spend on presents. I've never seen such a huge pile of gifts.

Turned out mis amigos and I knew over half the immigrants we were serving. One of the highlights for me was serving a 4 year old friend. As I came to get her family to seat them, Dayna ran smiling and laughing into my arms as soon as she saw me. She had come to English class last year with her mother. We had great fun with refills of lemonade and spice cake, and I got to teach her little brother how to chew turkey. Think "Monkey see, monkey do," with a little "Sea Food" thrown in and use your imagination.

The children were all SO excited with the most mundane gifts. I mean would your kids shout for joy over a pair of sneakers from Wal-Mart? One 9 year old girl, Aida, the junior Mom in her household of 5 kids, really wanted a pair of soft purple pajamas. She was delighted with them, but more concerned to ask me when her friend at the next table would get her gifts. I was at her family's trailer the next evening to buy some hand-crafted shoulder bags from her mom, and Aida was rounding up her younger siblings for bed, and glowingly wearing her new purple PJ's. The parents got gifts too, plus each family got a $50 gift card to the local supermarket and a bilingual Bible. There were more exciting gifts. I think 6 year old Juan who got his first bicycle, a brand new shiny green thing with lots of chrome, was pretty much in shock the rest of the evening.

Needless to say there were lots of smiles and lots of tears and lots of hugs and kisses. (I love how expressive my Latin friends are!) But best of all it actually made sense and rang true when the Pastor said to all, "We just wanted to let you all know that God really does love you, and that he has not forgotten you at Christmas." Though I am proud to carry the name of Jesus Christ as a Christian, I am often ashamed of the behavior and attitudes (including my own) found in American Churches: that's part of the reason I go to a church of Mexican immigrants. But this Christmas I was truly proud and delighted and deeply blessed to be part of the best Christmas party EVER!

I hope each of you had a wonderful Christmas as well.

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