December 24, 2017
On Christmas Eve, after the presents had been opened and the food naps had been taken, we decided to seek out a small mission church outside Windham, New York to take in the holiday service. Raised Catholic, we have practiced Baptist and are now Methodists, along our spiritual journey. I had found Mitchell Hollow Mission Church online with the simple message of “Helping People Find their Life in Jesus.” It was 40 minutes away, and on a cold night in upstate New York, the thought of leaving a warm house for a long ride to the unknown took some convincing. I could only get my husband to join me.
Out in the middle of farm lands and what must be beautiful views as lights sparkled in the distance, high and low indicating homes, we found the little church on top of a hill all lit up and ready to celebrate the birth of Christ. We pulled into the parking lot, giving ourselves a look of “do you want to back out?” As this was not what we were familiar with, spending a service with people we didn’t know was a bit uncomfortable. We gave each other the same sideways glance as we pulled open the large front doors, no turning back now. We found our way to a pew and took it all in: Children, parents, seniors and those with special needs were celebrating, laughing and happy. It was a very inviting place.
The holidays can be a very hard time for many. I think we are all hit by some moments of sadness, okay many moments, during the mad dash between Thanksgiving and Christmas. There are some people who really struggle to get by, each day another check mark on the calendar. Being around family or not being around family, can bring on profound feelings that are normally kept in check throughout the year. The message advertisers serve up can leave us feeling alone and vulnerable. We tell ourselves we don’t measure up. Our inner dialogue can range from: Where are all my beautiful gifts? I wish I could afford to give my family more. Why do I feel so left out? I feel like a stranger in my life? To deeper feelings of: Why don’t I have my family? I miss my loved ones so much! I am sick, alone and hurting. These are all so real.
When we entered this small church, any negative baggage I was carrying in with me, thankfully fell away. It was replaced with a wonderful childrens’ service reenacting the journey of Mary and Joseph to Bethlehem, where Jesus would find his first bed in a manger. The pastor pointed out that those in attendance could testify how cold and harsh a manger can be, as most were farmers. The service was short, the kids were hitting the end of their ability to sit still or act on stage as Santa was coming and they really wanted to get down to business. Parents were exhausted and ready to head home.
As the service came to the end, the pastor, a young 33-year old man from Minnesota, with 5 kids and a farm to tend, pointed out that the cry of a child on this night 2017 years ago change the world forever.