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Nov25FriIn the busyness of the Christmas season, every person, whether young or old, can proclaim that Jesus is the greatest gift of all November 25, 2011 by Colonel Gwenyth Redhead
Lovable and cuddly, Santa Claus often represents the secularization of what began many years ago as “Christ Mass” – a special Christian celebration of the birth of Jesus. With this in mind, the newly formed Evangelism and Outreach Committee at our corps in Orillia, Ont., resolved that The Salvation Army should participate in the local Santa Claus parade. We felt that this initiative would help people remember the phrase, “Jesus is the reason for the season.”
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We decided to drive our new community response vehicle in the parade, which would signal to the community that The Salvation Army is ready and available to offer support during emergencies. However, this is not the sum total of what The Salvation Army in Orillia is all about, so we thought we should also have a float depicting the stable, the manger with the baby Jesus, and children dressed as Mary, Joseph and an angel.
Through the initiative of our youth pastor, a local farmer lent us a huge flatbed truck free of charge, which left us room for more than just the nativity scene. We added hay bales to the truck, on which the children and teachers from our Sunday school could sit, dressed as Christmas presents. We had a huge collection of children's timbrels, bells and other musical instruments, which the children and teachers used to “make a joyful noise for the Lord.” We had room for our youth to sit along the edges of the truck, as they took turns giving out candy to the children in the crowd. And a few of us older folk walked alongside the float playing our timbrels. We also made a huge birthday cake, which was accompanied by a sign that read, “Jesus is the Greatest Gift of All.”
We were blessed with a warm, sunny day and there was great excitement among all Salvation Army participants during the parade. The streets were crowded with people of all ages who seemed pleased to see The Salvation Army as part of the parade.
But as I reflect with great joy on this wonderful opportunity to bear witness to “God's gift beyond words” (2 Cor. 9:15, NEB) in this uniquely Salvation Army way, I am grateful that I, now in my sixties, still have the energy for such participation. However, I do have a little twinge of guilt in denying such an opportunity to the seniors of yester year, finding comfort in the fact that if Oprah Winfrey says that “forty is the new twenty,” then sixty must be the new forty.
Thankfully, this is balanced with the fact that God is more than willing to accept our offerings of praise to him no matter how young or old we are, provided they are made with a pure heart. May this be your experience this “Christ Mass.”
Colonel Gwenyth Redhead is a retired Salvation Army officer. She and her husband, Robert, have held a wide variety of appointments in the United Kingdom, Canada and New Zealand. However, her passion has always been to encourage others in creative responses to God through writing of scripts, stories, articles and lyrics (mostly to Robert's music). She has two daughters, Joanne and Corinne, and rejoices that they, too, use the creativity God has given them in ministry.