What better time of year than mid-summer to celebrate Christmas? One morning, campers wake to the sound of hymns like "Joy to the World" and "O Come O Come Emmanuel." Each session at St. George's, an entire day of camp is devoted to Christmas, with the focus not on presents or Santa Claus, but on the miracle of Jesus' birth and the hope that He brought into the world. All free electives that day involve some type of giving: some campers go around the mountain singing carols, some make anonymous cards of affirmation and thanks, some pick up trash, some decorate the Shrine and set the table for the evening program.
The evening program that night is a Christmas Eucharist, brimming with Christmas hymns and carols set to guitar. Instead of the traditional reading of Luke's Nativity, the Gospel reading is John 1.1 in order to shift the focus away from the pageantry that can blur the Christmas story and towards what it means that God chose to be made man and live among us. Even before campers come the the evening Eucharist, each cabin spends time reflecting on the meaning of Christmas and chooses a symbolic offering to be given during the service.
"In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being in him was life, and the life was the light of all people. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it." John 1.1-5, NRSV
After the Eucharist, the camp processes out of the Shrine in a long line, singing Silent Night while walking to the pool. As the line of campers stretches out, the music grows disjointed, with different groups singing faster or slower, but as the camp unites in a circle around the pool, the camp syncs back into a strong unison.
Campers are given votive candles, and small french fry baskets to place in the water. Campers are encouraged to think of someone whose light shines most brightly in their life, and to write that person's name in magic marker on their makeshift boats. One camper wrote the name of their best friend, another "my mommy," some wrote the name of one of their counselors. A few candles were lit around the circle and the flame was passed from one camper to the next until all the boats were lit and then sent into the water. As the boats floated and formed into one large group in the water, the camp linked together with their arms over each other's shoulders, and sang one last Christmas song.
By David Churchman
Spreading the good news of Shrine Mont Camps into the Valley of the World.
The View from the Mountain is written by a rotating cast of staff writers and contributors.