This past Saturday evening was filled to the brim with Christmas cheer – holiday hoopla – Advent awesomeness – and just plain fun at Saint Stephen.
Ages ago – back when the sun was still shining for longer than 4 hours a day. Back when the weather was still to my liking (as in – the temperatures were still nice and toasty – warm/blazing hot) we had a delightfully fun – grown-up gathering at Saint Stephen. We laughed. We played jumbo Jenga. We ate yummy food. We chatted and chattered and conversed. We laughed A LOT. We ate some more yummy food and played another round of jumbo Jenga while laughing even more!
Simply put – we had a delightfully wonderful evening with our sisters and brothers in Christ. It was fun. It was joyful and just what many of us needed and continue to need. Community – caring – kindness – grace – joy – friendship – laughter – welcome. Balm for world-weary souls.
We declared – “this was fun!” “We need to do this again!” And “we need to do this more often!”
So – the pastor (that would be me) and the chairperson of the Fellowship Committee (that would be Marilyn Mills) decided on a date for another “low-key gathering of the Saint Stephen community.” A time to relax and have fun and simply delight in the joys and blessings of Christian community.
But what would we do? We probably shouldn’t play jumbo Jenga every single time we get together. Unless we decide to start a competitive league. (Although – that might be an idea . . . I like the sound of that!)
So – I thought some thinks and then I declared “Bingo” – we will play “Bingo!”
My family has been playing a rousing game of Christmas Day Bingo for decades now. Bingo is a McFarland family tradition. We love it.
Bingo is one of those games that is fun no matter how many people are there. 10 people – cool. 15 – people awesome. 20 – even better! And (most importantly) Bingo allows for lots of talking and laughter and the swapping of stories and the telling of jokes and the eating of desserts/leftovers/candy.
The prizes are important too. We always have seriously awesome prizes. Prizes that are coveted and delighted in. Prizes that make the winner giggle with glee and their cousins/Uncle/Papa green with envy! And we have ridiculously funny prizes too. Prizes chosen to make everyone in the family roar with laughter! All of the prizes are wrapped with care. You never know if you are choosing your favorite candy or a can of baked beans. Or if my father-in-law is going to get a t-shirt declaring that he “lives to knit!” We do lots of bartering and swapping of Bingo prizes.
We laugh so much. We talk and tease and swap prizes and laugh some more. Often the 2 hours we spend laughing and playing Bingo together are the highlight of our Christmas gathering. It isn’t the game or the loot we win – it is the memories we make!
Yes – Bingo would be perfectly – perfect for a fun gathering of the Lutherans – I thought. And it was. (In my – not so humble opinion anyway . . .)
I had fun from the beginning to the end.
I loved shopping for the prizes. I literally spent weeks (months) looking for prizes that would make the cut. Some of the prizes were symbolic of our Covid-19 journey – hand sanitizer – hand soap – bags of spilt peas – and rolls of TP. (Remember when the store shelves were empty of all of those things for weeks on end?)
Chocolate and chips – just because those are very – very yummy!
Baked beans and trash bags for a laugh. The same goes for the Christmas cactus ornament wearing twinkle lights and a cowboy hat . . . (what on Earth was the designer thinking?!?!?)
The laughter flowed. We joked and teased and laughed some more. We talked and chatted and chattered. Then we laughed even more.
It was decided by some members of the congregation (Barry Mills) that the resident clergy person/Bingo caller should stick to leading Bible studies and preaching sermons. (There is always – Always – ALWAYS a critic in EVERY group.) He even suggested some replacements . . . Seriously . . . replacements . . . I am so totally irreplaceable. Or at least that’s my story and I am sticking to it!!!!!
We had so much fun that it was decided we would most definitely need to reuse our special Christmas Bingo cards again this summer. We can all celebrate Christmas in July together by playing Christmas in July Bingo! (I am already on the hunt for great prizes!)
I give our Lord thanks for the gift and blessing of sisters and brothers in Christ. For the blessing of community and laughter and joy in a sometimes difficult world. I give thanks for the opportunity to just be for a while. To relax and slow down and celebrate friendship and fellowship.
I give thanks for silliness and moments of joy and for Bingo on a chilly Saturday evening in December.
I give thanks for Saint Stephen Lutheran Church and for the blessings being the pastor of this truly intriguing crew brings to my life.