By Gene Tempelmeyer
“A fun and funky Christmas celebration.” That’s how Spring Garden Church, Toronto, describes its annual Light of the World.
Designed as a “safe invitation” for people unlikely to attend church, the evening gives neighbours and friends a gentle reminder that Jesus has come with Good News.
Musical sources extend from Martin Luther to Boney M. (Imagine a nativity with a disco ball Star of Bethlehem.) Lyrical content ranges from Christmas carols to “You’re a Mean One, Mr. Grinch.” Alongside the music are activity stations for kids around the sanctuary (and there are always lots of kids!), stories, and an annual reading of Luke 2 by Linus from “A Charlie Brown’s Christmas Special.”
The evening ends with a very brief talk and invitation to Christmas worship and other opportunities to reflect on the meaning of Christmas. There is no offering, but people are invited to bring food items for a local drop-in centre. Everyone stays for an extensive selection of Christmas treats.
The evening also includes a performance that is different and unique each year. Once Buddy, the Christmas elf played by Will Ferrell, came for a visit. Other years have featured beat poetry and the Christmas story told with balloon characters and animals. Another time included a “Singing Christmas Tree”. Instead of a choir arranged in the shape of a tree, an actual tree had been hinged to open its mouth to sing and talk. (This went a bit off the rails when a few small children found a talking tree terrifying.)
It is that willingness to risk trying something different that characterises the annual planning for Light of the World. The people who first brainstormed the event more than 15 years ago were persuaded that many seasonal events churches offer held little appeal for most of our neighbours. 15 years later, more than half the building is filled with people who are not generally part of any church. Through the years the relationships begun at Light of the World have generated significant conversation, ministry, and opportunities to help people and families in stress or crisis.
This year’s Light of the World will take place at Spring Garden December 15 at 6:30 P.M.