Everyone who knows me knows I am all about Christmas. I love Christmas. And I get to be pastor of THE Christmas Church. I mean, to begin with, we’re named after Christmas. And we have the biggest Christmas celebration of all (OK, St. Peter’s is bigger, and so is Rick Warren’s Church, and probably Cardinal Tim Dolan pulls in more at St. Patrick’s, but we’re still talking big).
And I want to tell you all about it. Since Christmas is exactly two weeks away, it seems like a good time to launch an official Christmas countdown. Each day, I’ll be offering news and information on our Christmas preparations, what’s going on and what you can expect.
Here are the basics, by way of background.
Year after year I found Christmas Eve to be a terrible experience. Everybody wants to come to church (for once) and we couldn’t handle them. The parking lot was gridlock and there were no seats available for the majority of people who came at the optimum time (4pm). Worst of all, insiders knew how to work the system to their advantage and the unchurched who showed up were clearly unwelcome and thereby received a yearly tutorial in why they don’t want to come to church the rest of the year.
One summer evening, 2006, and entirely on impulse (how I get some of my best work done), I drove into the Maryland State Fairgrounds (which is here in Timonium) to take a look around. There I found one of the biggest parking lots I’ve seen in north Baltimore in front of a large exhibition hall. Instantly I knew we had to do Christmas there. So we did. Of course the critics and the naysayers had a field day, but we did it anyway.
That first Christmas at the fairgrounds we had about 1800 chairs, and when I walked into that hall and saw all those empty seats, I think I nearly fainted. It was a little panic attack, what was I thinking? How could we ever fill them? I didn’t even know if anyone would come. Christmas Eve 2006 was a long, long day. And nobody was in any hurry to get there, that was for sure. With half an hour to go, the place looked lonely and deserted. But a few more minutes later people started to come and they kept coming and though we didn’t actually fill that first Mass there were enough people there that it felt full, and it felt good.
In the intervening years we’ve grown and have actually outgrown the original space. Last year we moved to a larger space, the “Cow Palace” (which I love because we have tons of space, but also, because I like celebrating Christmas in a stable).
This year we will have 3,800 chairs at two Masses.
Lets fill them!
13 Days and counting….