From my first experience of the holiday season at London Grove Monthly Meeting, some 25 years ago before I had children through the decades to this year, I find myself experiencing the beauty of holding both the silent worship that is upheld by our Worship and Ministry Committee and the pageants and programs that are supported by our Religious Education Committee. At London Grove Monthly Meeting, the holiday season is centered on Christmas. We keep Christmas in many ways – any one of which might be satisfying for another meeting!
The season begins the first Saturday in December. Each year Friends of all ages from our meeting gather with members of all ages from the Greater Works Ministries of Kennett Square, PA for an interfaith service to share our faith traditions with each other. We begin with a potluck dinner to share fellowship. Then begins a service quite different from our usual worship! We combine our traditions into an evening which includes silent worship, boisterous gospel singing with drums, piano and guitar and a good deal of prayer. Some years ago we added laying on of hands prayer healing by an elder from Greater Works Ministries. For the first couple of years many Friends didn’t know what to do with this but over time they joined in the practice of having someone put their hands on their head or shoulders and pray for them. This service offers a sense of community with our neighbors that is an example of the spirit of Christmas.
In mid- December, we plan a multi-generational Christmas tree ornament making during First Day School. A number of tables are arranged with crafts which hands of all sizes and dexterities can create. A large, donated Christmas tree stands in the social room on which the decorations will be placed. Young Adult Friends with the help of high school Friends decorate the tree with the ornaments and also decorate the meetinghouse on a following Friday or Saturday night. This is a time for pulling together many young people who may be away at Quaker boarding school or college in fellowship and service—and pizza.
The meetinghouse then stands ready for the First Day morning before Christmas. Meeting for Worship begins our community gathering. After worship, a program begins in which there are songs from a choir that has been practicing for the few weeks prior, biblical and spiritual readings, community singing, a picture book story reading for the children (and adults) who gather on the floor in order to see each page. After this program, many stay and help set the stage (literally) for the evening pageant.
The pageant is a pre-written play that is essentially a narration of the Christmas story from Luke in which the children of the meeting participate as Mary, Joseph, angels, sheep, the Star and the wise men. There are costumes and garland and sheepskins and even, if possible, a real live baby as Baby Jesus. Because there are no lines to rehearse, the program includes all children, young, middle or old, who want to participate. The program ends with a birthday cake and a singing of Happy Birthday to Baby Jesus, followed by a candlelight singing of Silent Night, Holy Night. In the social room the cake is cut, cookies and juice are eaten and fellowship and hugs are shared until the moment when Santa arrives. With bells jingling and merry “Ho,ho’s”, Santa listens to each child’s wish and afterwards gives each child a gingerbread cookie.
Christmas Eve at London Grove includes an evening candlelight meeting for worship. The few candles in the large windows which hold out the dark and cold create a special glow in this worship. It is a small gathering that includes people who look forward to the intimacy and warmth all year. There is another, small, meeting for worship held on Christmas day. The stillness reminds us that every day is indeed holy.