The right gift, generously given, will change the world.
Back in 2002, when I was on staff at Menlo Park Presbyterian Church, we came up with the idea of using CDs of Christmas Music as a “tool” to equip our members to invite someone to come and join us for our Christmas Eve Services. I brought the Christmas CD Invitation idea with me to Grace Presbyterian in Houston and last year here to Mountaintop Church in Birmingham.
Over the last decade I’ve heard some great stories about how people use the CD to make invitations and how far they have spread. Some of my favorites include: passing them out from a hospital bed, handing them out whenever you go through a fast food drive through lane and recently, offering one to the State Trooper who has pulled you over for speeding! I know that the music has also spread and the “Simply Christmas” version (that the amazing Brian Mann recorded in 2007) was even played in the White House that Christmas.
But yesterday I received what has now become my favorite Christmas CD Invitation story. It was shared with me by the mother of an incredible 9 year boy, Elijah, whose along with his family worship here at Mountaintop. It’s the perfect reminder to the truth we focused on last Sunday: The right gift, generously given, will change the world.
Elijah’s mom gave me permission to share this with you so here in her words is a story worth sharing:
My 9 year old son, Elijah, took to your Christmas Eve service invitation challenge like a moth to a flame! The first Sunday the holiday CDs were being distributed Elijah tried to grab one for every child in his school. I told him that may be inappropriate, but that he could grab a few for his teacher and the principal. Everyone in our family took 5 CDs and we left an extra offering in exchange. Elijah went to school the following morning, with a well rehearsed script, and distributed the CDs to his classroom teacher as well as the other 4th grade teachers on the hall at his school. I received an email from his teacher within the hour thanking me for the CD and saying that she was playing it aloud in the classroom for all of the children to enjoy as they completed their morning work. That afternoon Elijah snagged all remaining CDs that the rest of us didn't have the chance to hand out, so that he could give them to other teachers (PE, art, etc.).
The following Sunday, Dec. 9th, Elijah grabbed 10 CDs after church. This time I wasn't as hesitant, because I knew he was serious about this task. After church we went to Sam's Club and Elijah convinced his sister to help him give CDs out to random people in the store. The first was a young man pushing carts. I tried to catch up to the children to tell them that giving CDs out to people on the job may not work because they wouldn't have anywhere to put them. But I was too late. Elijah was already talking to the young man who listened to his speech, looked the CD over, and thanked him as he stuck it in his back pocket and continued on his cart journey.
Monday afternoon when I arrived in carpool my son didn't come to the car when he saw me pull up because there was one more teacher he had to reach out to. I had to pull to the side so that he could finish talking to her about Mountain Top and all the great music that was on the CD. When he got in the car I asked what was going on and he said that the teacher had actually asked him for a CD and he had to dig in his book bag to find an extra copy (guess she wasn't on the list). He went on to explain that the teachers were talking to each other about the CDs and were approaching him. A teacher that he had already given a CD to approached him to say that her copy was already scratched from playing it and that she not only needed another copy for herself, but wanted a few extras to give out to her children as well.
That brings us to this Sunday! Once again, Elijah grabbed a stack of CDs with a whole new list of teachers that he wanted to talk to and invite out to Christmas Eve service. Tonight Elijah sang with his school choir at a senior living facility and a teacher from his school approached us to say how thoughtful Elijah was and how he made her feel special by choosing her to be the "first" to receive the now coveted Mountaintop Christmas CD. She said "all the teachers" are talking about the CD and asking if they got one from Elijah. She said it actually struck up a conversation among she and her colleagues (Elijah nowhere around) about Mountain Top and if anyone went there or intended on attending the service. This teacher said that among them they could think of one teacher in the school that went to Mountain Top, but that they all knew of Mountaintop's involvement in the community. She said that they recalled the story of a former student who died of cancer a few years back. Her family was financially exhausted from years of medical care and couldn't afford the funeral. As they spoke of the Christmas CDs, someone recalled that it was Mountaintop that paid for the child's funeral expenses in full.
As the mother of a 9 year old boy who likes to do random things, I believe on the surface that he is clueless of his impact. But as the mother of this particular 9 year old little boy who likes to do random things, deep in my heart I KNOW that he KNOWS his impact. My son has struggled to find his space and his voice at this school. He has struggled with teachers getting past his quirky ways in order to see him for who he really is and to teach him in spite of themselves. Giving out the Christmas Eve invitations has allowed a few outsiders to see within him the sweet, innocence that we all see and more importantly it has allowed him to shine. The conversation I had with this teacher tonight started off about the CDs, but turned into a 2 hour long conversation about who Elijah is as a person and as a student. This teacher has the wherewithal to change my son's academic life for the better in ways that no other has even considered. This conversation started about the Christmas CDs, but ended up changing our life...many lives...in more ways than one.
I am so proud of my son for taking this on as a personal challenge, and I am thankful to you, your staff and to the Mountaintop family for allowing us this opportunity...really for this season as a whole. We are fully embracing the spirit of "giving less presents and giving more presence." In addition to the CDs, we adopted an angel from the Angel Tree and have made (are making) donations to the Hands and Feet party.
The right gift, generously given, will change the world. Often its just one life at a time, so we will keep making invitations and proclaiming that Christmas still changes the world.
To the glory of God!
PS: If you'd like to do what Elijah's doing and make invitations by sharing our Christmas CD just click on Mountaintop Christmas CD 2012.