There are only a few photos to document our most recent Cre8 gatherings. Some were too dark, and others were accidentally deleted. It’s okay though. I’d rather something be left and treasured as sacred rather than used after-the-fact in even a seemingly irreverent way. Therefore I want to carefully use images and stories to simply… celebrate. As we invite you to “come and see what God has done” I’ll tell just some of the story – and you can “see” the rest using your own imagination…
Our family arrived at the little wood-framed church, built in 1804, at 4:00 in the afternoon. It was under 30 degrees and actually warmer OUTSIDE than it was inside! We lit three small space heaters and could see our breath for a full two hours until bodies arrived and filled the little church with warmth and singing.
One woman said later, “Right when I walked in, I was overwhelmed by the thick blanket of Love in the room!”
Seven families canceled due to colds and such, and still 78 people gathered on the family night. This was a week after we had the same event for 27 college students.
The night was simple. With the 200+ year old setting, we did not want ANY technical equipment, so we had some scriptures written in chalk ink on large pieces of particle board – very old school! Chunky brown and cream candles were lit, with the light aroma of spice, vanilla, and old wood… the simple manger scene on display in front. The sounds of singing, an acoustic guitar, and a djembe African drum filled the air. Two art canvases with markers lay on the floor for people to use at the end of the night.
|1804 was written high on the wall above this sconce.|
Mike began by explaining what Cre8 is designed to do. Each time we gather, we hope that people will share personal intimacy with Christ and with the most important people in their lives. To Cre8 is very simple:
To help people BE who they want to be, and BECOME who God wants them to become, by creating shared worship environments in which people of all ages may CONNECT and CELEBRATE with each other and with the Lord in the ways in which they are designed to naturally connect and celebrate.
After being quite moved, watching his son sing with friends, one father told us how much it meant to have shared a worship experience with his son. “I have never seen him move like that!”
The other day, a friend shared how the night deeply impacted her tenderness toward her husband. She said to me, “Ami, the night – everything – it was all so simple. There was nothing to distract me from hearing God’s voice, and I knew what I needed to go home and do. Thank you.”
Did we try to get a father to see his son in a new light? No. Did we try to speak into a marriage? No. In fact, if we HAD tried to focus on ONE felt need, we would have excluded most of the people in the room. Instead, we simply got together and lifted up Jesus. He moved in the hearts of seekers, and each after-story was vastly different.
People all over the building read scriptures that Mike had passed out, retelling the Story of Christ from “In the beginning…” to “the Lamb upon the Throne.” There was a quiet candlelight moment with LED candles (so not to burn down the old building!), singing both modern and traditional music.
Our “Cre8 The Moment” challenge to families was to make time this Christmas to “visit the manger.” So often, we celebrate Christmas without giving face-time to the One who emptied Himself in order to fill our lives. We spend time picking the outfits, we go to the parties, we do our best to impress other guests and to see our friends. (In fact, we do that a lot!) So we asked the kids, “If people came to YOUR birthday party, enjoyed all of the friends, the snacks, the games, and even the take-home prizes… but never walked up to YOU to look you in the eyes and tell you just how glad they are that YOU were born… but instead, just went home… how would you feel?”
The kids’ responses were obvious.
Then before people loaded the covered wagons to take a joyride through the Festival of Lights, many took a serious moment to write on the canvases some ways that they will give much-needed face-time to Jesus during the busy Christmas season, so as not to ride through the Season without celebrating the Holy God Who became Personal.
The rest of the night was filled with people wrapped up tightly in layers of blankets, sitting close, listening to laughter, carols, and the loud hums of the tractors.
|Ready to thaw out! Here we are after the wagon ride, Sadie fast asleep.|
Finally, because Cre8 is first meant to be lived out in our own personal lives (for me and for Mike to leverage our influence to help each other BE and BECOME, CONNECT and CELEBRATE…), and next in our own home (with our family doing the same for those who cross our paths)… let me share how this Cre8 Christmas gathering impacted our little family of four, within the walls of Mr. Condo.
J. Michael has been taking piano for a few months, and he said to us, “I know how I want to let Jesus know that I love him. I am going to write my first song to him and sing it to him for Christmas.”
|With their Cre8 Christmas Gifts, days after receiving them.|
That got us thinking! We also knew that he wanted his own bible (a full version and not another picture or storybook version). So, as an early surprise, we bought each child a special Cre8 Christmas Gift – something useful that will help them express what it is that they have chosen to Cre8 this year to “visit the manger.” For J. Michael, his bible will help him “sing a new song.” For Sadie, well… she wants to “be a princess” so we bought her some of the “God’s Little Princess” books to help her think about her royalty in a new light. I’m not so sure she gets the concept yet, and that’s okay. She is learning how to be giving and kind, and I’m certain that she will be singing J. Michael’s new song right along with him on Christmas Day!
Well, that — AND she said that she thinks Jesus needs socks for his feet.
So as the Christmas Story has taken center stage in 2010, we found a Bethlehem Village on Craigslist, and the kids have had a blast playing with it. The Justice League and some Star Wars action figures have made their way to visit the Baby Jesus! And thanks to good ol’ superglue, a Roman Centurian only lost his head momentarily, and the shepherd’s arm has been reattached, his lost sheep returned.
And with however you choose to celebrate…
I hope you won’t let the Season pass without taking a visit to the hallowed manger ground where great personal comfort can be found:
“For He shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” ~Isaiah 9:6