As the Advent season approaches, it is nice to think back to one of our less solemn moments as a Bible study group when we decided to get together for a Christmas party. Being relatively new to Seattle, my wife and I hadn’t met a lot of people yet, so we were feeling excited to share our home as a party venue. I don’t know how it got started, but somehow we decided to make the theme of the party “Ugly Christmas Sweaters,” or maybe it was “Tacky Christmas Sweaters.” I’m not sure.
At any rate, the idea was that we would wear those garments that we almost never wear except at Christmastime. You probably have some of them in your back closet. They are the red and green monstrosities, the Santa Claus ties, and the horrible Christmas sweater that Great Aunt Tilda knitted for you. We weren’t trying to be the best dressed. We were trying to be the silliest.
The party was wonderful. The mood was instant laughter from the start. There was fun, food, and drink. And there were games to play! That’s one of the things that makes me love my group so much. They are willing to play games.
So we played “Ho Ho Ho,” which is a game where you try to guess a word from its definition. The catch is that each word ends with the letters HO, (like Groucho and nacho, etc.). And we played “Christmas Carol Chaos” where we tried to guess whether a song being sung was a real Christmas carol or a fake.
And of course we sang lots of carols. (You know a party is going well when people will sing together.) It is wonderful to sing carols with people who love and serve Jesus Christ. When they sing it, you feel like they really mean it too.
We also had something called a “Yankee Swap.” Everyone had bought a small gag present costing no more than $10. In random order, each one of us got to unwrap a present. If you liked the present, you could keep it. But if you didn’t like it, you could swap your present for somebody else’s present!
Some of the gifts were pretty cool. Others were, well, let me describe the funniest: the gift was a plastic bag containing shredded wheat. Shredded wheat was a running gag in our group. One of our group members had commented on the deliciousness and healthful benefits of shredded wheat for breakfast. And he had even gone so far as to give two of our group members who had never sampled the delicacy some sample bags. And yes, you probably have guessed that I was the one who ended up holding the gift!
But I wouldn’t trade that experience for the world. In a world that can be cynical, hectic, and far too commercial at Christmastime, we had a moment of joy. The joy of fellowship, of being with people who share our thoughts and feelings, our failures and fears, our moments of praise, and our moments of prayer; this is the kind of joy that grows by sharing.
Our Bible study group has shared many wonderful experiences together. Now we are much more than people who get together two hours every two weeks to study the Bible. We have come to know each other. We have become even better friends. And in a real way we are brothers and sisters in Christ. And what a gift that is!
I’ll take the shredded wheat over a flat-screen TV any day.
A Christmas Ode to My Small Group
Some people met to form a group
at the home of Sally and Frank.
They studied the Bible and shared their thoughts
and ’twas tea or juice they drank.
A Lenten study for a few short weeks
was all that they had to commit.
But once they got to know each other
they decided that this group was it.
For there’s joy to be found in praying together
and laughing in fellowship.
So they gathered and shared, and honestly cared.
They were off on a wonderful trip.
And they still get together in all kinds of weather
to enjoy all sorts of great fun.
For movies and parties and bocce ball,
or just watching the setting sun.
But the best time of all is those special times
when they all are of one accord,
Reading and praying and being together
and working to serve the Lord.