PACEM (People and Congregations Engaged in Ministry) is a coalition of 80 congregations in the Charlottesville area that work together to provide shelter for members of our community experiencing homelessness during the late fall and winter months. Last year 250 adults stayed at least one night; an average of 43 men and 15 women stayed in the shelters each night. Broadus is one of those 80 congregations. For the first years of our involvement, we primarily helped with providing and serving meals at other churches that were hosting the sleep site, but that all changed four years ago. At the last minute, the church that was hosting the women the week before Christmas had to drop out, and we were asked if we could host them instead.
To be honest, we were a bit startled by the request. It was Advent, and we had so many activities planned already. We asked ourselves if we had room to do the job of hosting a large group of women for a week. That’s the question that determined our answer. “While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.” There was room in the Broadus inn, and we happily invited the women to eat and sleep in our beautifully decorated building and prayed that the welcome they found here would convey the message of Christmas in a tangible way. God loves us, each and every one of us. We are all His children, and He offers to each of us the gifts of hope, peace, joy and love.
That first year, we prepared for the number of guests we were expecting, and cots were set up in the classrooms across the hall from the sanctuary. But when they arrived that evening, there were more women than would fit in that space, so we set up the overflow cots in the sanctuary. Part of the Christmas transformation of the sanctuary is a series of quilted banners made over the years by talented artisans in our congregation. I don’t know that anyone paid particular attention to what the banners said when they set up the overflow cots, but the “Come to Bethlehem” one became part of the bedroom decor. A reminder to us that year, and every year since, that the true measure of our Christmas celebration is whether we have reflected God’s love not only in our words, but also our actions.
We don’t ask the question of whether we can host anymore. After that first year, it’s a given. The week before Christmas, we are privileged to be the inn that welcomes some women who, at least for now, don’t have homes. And those cots lined up along one of the walls of the sanctuary are a visual reminder that Jesus comes to us, not just at Christmas, but each and every day of the year asking if there is room in our hearts for Him.
This article from our Pastor originally appeared in The Beacon, our weekly newsletter. If you would like to see what is going on around the church this week, you can view the latest copy of The Beacon here. Or, if you would like to receive The Beacon in your email inbox each week, you can contact the church office at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The month of December is an interesting time. On Sunday we celebrate Advent, looking forward to the coming of Jesus with hopeful longing. But during the week, we are putting up Christmas trees, making cookies, and listening to Christmas music on the radio.
It can seem like a bit of a disconnect, but I don't think it has to be.
I was talking about this contrast with a friend of mine, and he said, "Every expectant parent prepares the nursery."
I really liked that insight.
In Advent we remind ourselves of our wait for Jesus, but during the week we can remember that Christmas is slowly breaking in all around us. So, I hope this month is filled with tons of joy for you as you celebrate Advent and look forward to what is coming.
- Pastor Nick
There are two more Sundays in Advent, and we would love for you to join us in worship at 11:00 a.m. as we wait expectantly together.
You are also invited to join us on Christmas Eve at 5:00 p.m. for our candlelight service. This is always a special evening of celebration full of singing, a reading of the Christmas story from the gospel of Luke, and plenty of excited children adding their voices to worship. We'd love for you to be there!
If you grew up in church, you more than likely have memories of one or more Christmas pageants in which you participated. Perhaps you were one of many angels or shepherds or perhaps you had one of the main roles of Joseph or Mary.
Christmas pageants have long been associated with church and children. St. Francis of Assisi is credited with staging the first nativity scene in Greccio in 1223. Later he said about this event, “I want to do something that will recall the memory of that Child who was born in Bethlehem, to see with bodily eyes the inconveniences of his infancy, how he lay in the manger, and how the ox and ass stood by." A Christmas pageant allows us to experience a story that we might know very well in a different way. We see a story unfold before us.
Broadus has a long history of Christmas pageants too, but ours have almost always been unrehearsed. The children learn about Jesus and his birth in Bethlehem, and then they have a chance to act out that story. We use the same script every year, but it never turns out exactly the same. The adults that are shepherding the children and moving the play along through the script have to be prepared for the unexpected, which is one of the messages of Christmas.
Mary wasn’t planning on delivering her child in a stable in Bethlehem. The shepherds who were in the fields with their sheep weren’t expecting to have their night interrupted by angels. The Wise Men who journeyed from the East didn’t know their exact destination. Life happens for us in unexpected, and sometimes unwelcome, ways, but we are children of a God who appears in the unexpected and even transforms it into something new and wonderful.
So, when a shepherd wanders around on the stage or baby Jesus doesn’t lie still in the manger, we don’t cringe because they’re off-script. We smile and laugh and understand that life doesn’t follow a script. And we understand too that life, like this unrehearsed pageant, doesn’t come with a dress rehearsal followed by the real thing.
As we journey through Advent, our hope and prayer for you is that you will find moments to pause and reflect on a story that may be so familiar to you that you forget to marvel at it. Christmas...God coming to us to live amongst us and show us the way. Then and now.
You’re invited to join us for our Christmas Family Night on Wednesday, December 11, 5:30 PM. You can call the church office, 977-7381, to make a reservation or just show up. Either way you’ll find a warm welcome. Hope to see you there!
At Broadus Memorial Baptist Church we believe we are called to love God and love our neighbors. The stories you read on this blog offer a witness to the ways we respond to God's love and seek to share that love with others.
Scripture describes the church as a body, made up of many parts. Just as your tiniest toe isn't aware of the intricate work your heart or brain do, it can sometimes happen that people in the church body only see what is happening immediately around them. Our hope is that reading these stories will help forge connection and inspire greater love and understanding for one another.
At Broadus we are a community defined by warm-hearted fellowship and thoughtful inquiry. We hope you see evidence of that in the stories we share here. We hope you know, or come to know, that you are a part of God's grand story and that you are welcome to join us, on a Sunday, a Wednesday, or any gathering in between.
The life of faith is a journey, and we are not meant to walk it alone. Our stories connect us and we are excited to share some of ours with you.
If you have a story you'd like to share or would like to connect in some other way you can send an email to email@example.com or call (434) 977-7381.
Please visit our new YouTube channel to find all of the latest videos of sermons, Bible studies, and ways to stay connected while we are not gathering in-person.