I know it’s strange to be talking about Christmas when we’ve barely cleared Halloween, but our band, Karmann and Kompany, loves Christmas.
We are in the process of producing a CD of Christmas music, to be released soon. The title track is,“Let’s Celebrate Christmas Right.” This was released via The Relevant Christian Magazine last year. We are including several traditional Christmas carols, as well as other selections.
We have all kinds of Christmas gigs scheduled starting on Black Friday and every weekend until December 25. I noticed that many of the Christmas events where we’ll be performing are a result of a “grassroots” effort to keep the Christmas spirit alive.
Christmas in a Barn
Sherry and Tom Birch have lived in Black Canyon City, AZ for many years. One evening, as they drove by Heritage Park on the north end of town, their son Michael said, “Wouldn’t it be great to light up the park?” Their daughter Jennifer seconded the idea.
Inspired, Tom and Sherry, along with another couple, began working on the idea. Now in its fourth year, the annual lighting of the park has become a popular attraction drawing people from neighboring communities with music, hay rides and hot chocolate. The first Friday in December has become a day to celebrate the Christmas season as well as the community.
“Our son and daughter grew up in Black Canyon City. They remembered when downtown Black Canyon City was decorated and lit up…They had such a heart for the community to be a community again. It’s our way of doing something that’s near and dear to our hearts.”
Sherry credits Michael for spearheading the event.
“Each year we sit down, plan it out again and figure out how we are going to make Michael’s vision a reality for the kids and adults of our community. It is also a way we can share about community and also share our faith by sharing Jesus’ birth.”
Another grassroots event takes place at John and Katharine Deegan’s barn in New River, Arizona. Years ago, John and Katharine held cowboy church underneath the mesquite trees on their working ranch. A traveling cowboy preacher preached at one of the gatherings just as winter was setting in. He asked if the Deegan’s would mind having a barn on their property. They said, “sure,” thinking they would have to do all the work.
The preacher said, “Well, fine. We’ll let the Lord build it.” He took off his hat and started a collection. Within a few months, they had enough money to buy materials. With the help of Teen Challenge, the barn was built and dedicated to the Lord. “Christmas at the Stables” (aka, barn night) was born out of gratitude.
John Deegan said:
“We just love the Lord. We were so taken back by the generosity of so many people to leave a memory, leave a legacy of what that property has done in their lives. They so generously gave to build that barn. Then the volunteer labor came. So it literally cost Katharine and I nothing and yet there have been so many lives changed by that over the years. We have been so humbled and so privileged to to it year after year.”
A live nativity, which includes George the Donkey, is the center piece of the evening. Joseph and Mary kneel by a manger with a baby
Jesus, who is sometimes a real baby and sometimes a doll. There are angels, wise men and shepherds. It’s been so well attended some years that the Deegan’s didn’t know what to do with everyone. Other years, when the weather was particularly uncooperative, only 20 to 30 people were in attendance. It doesn’t matter to the Deegan’s, because it’s not about the numbers. Every year they faithfully open their ranch so that people can share in the magic that is, “Christmas at the Stables.”
An Old Fashioned Christmas
North Valley Christian Church’s, “An Old Fashioned Christmas” celebration is an event that is near and dear to my heart. As the worship leader and music director for the church, I have the privilege of putting together the music, and working with the NVCC choir to bring this celebration to life. It is held in the Opera House at Pioneer Living History Museum just north of Phoenix. This year, it will be on December 19.
It’s a huge undertaking for our small congregation of, at most, 25 to 30 people to host an event for 150+, but the effort is a blessing. As Pastor Kirby Moses explains:
“Christmas starts so early….Walmart has already put Christmas decorations out for sale. People are running around trying to decide what money to spend, what gifts to buy, who they are going to visit and it’s the middle of October! We have found that by December, people are pretty burned out with the notion of Christmas. They’ve forgotten what it’s all about.
So we place our Christmas program as close to Christmas eve, Christmas morning as we can to remind them of the reason for Christmas – the birth of our Lord Jesus Christ. We try to do it in a such a way that we bring humor. A time for laughter, a time for fellowship in people’s lives to minister to the restlessness they have experienced because of Christmas.
But also, as the program progresses on, we bring in the reading from the Gospel about why Jesus has come and why he came in such a lowly fashion. And what the real meaning of Christmas is and what it should mean to people.”
Christmas, Community and Christ
All the talk about a war on Christmas got me to thinking about the success of the Christmas events I’ve mentioned above. These events have in common – Christmas, Community and Christ. None of these events are held in a lofty church. They aren’t income generating events or attached to a commercial endeavor. They are simple, humble events to bring the gospel to the lost, uplift and strengthen believers.
I encourage TRC readers to look around your own town. If there are similar grassroots Christmas events, I encourage you to support them. If you cannot find one, consider staring your own.
It could be a fun and effective way of sharing the gospel in and with your community. As John Deegan puts it, “People who would no more go to church, than the man in the moon, will come to a barn and watch the Lord being praised!”