A Christmas community

Published 10:05 pm Wednesday, December 18, 2019

By QuaWanna Bannarbie

I read signs. This past week, a sign caught my attention that was on the front lawn of the Suffolk National Guard Armory at 2761 Godwin Blvd. The words “A Community Christmas” are beautifully displayed on the sign. Those three words triggered a flashback to an earlier conversation I had about the meaning of Christmas.

There is historical record pertaining to how “Christ” and “mass” came to be a compound word. Please know that it is not my intention to offend or rewrite history. Nor am I writing to challenge theological scholarship on what the word has represented or still represents today. I do wish to share a thought about the significance of the two adjoined words. It is my hope that my shared perspective in regards to the meaning of the word will inform and perhaps encourage the reason why you cannot take Christ out of Christmas.


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When was the last time that you read the biblical account of the Christmas story and the telling of Christ’s birth? I find myself reviewing the scriptures in Matthew and Luke as I watch different adaptations of the nativity scene in television shows and movies. These visual narratives remind me to review the word of God. Every Christmas I notice something different not only in the adaptations but in the scripture itself. Have you ever paid attention to the community surrounding the Christmas story?

Think about it. We are introduced to a girl in Nazareth. Her name is Mary. She is given a message from an angel. Mary visits her cousins, Elizabeth and Zacharias, to witness the birth of their miracle child, John. Then the angel visits her betrothed husband, Joseph. An entire region is involved in the decree that moves the story from Nazareth to Bethlehem. While the couple is making a trip, we know of three wise men from the East who were also making their way to Bethlehem. When the couple arrive in Bethlehem, a soon to be delivered baby alarms the town and an innkeeper who have no room for them. These unfortunate circumstances invite domesticated animals into the scene because the baby is forced to be born in a stable for animals. The angel appears again and invites shepherds watching their sheep to go find the baby wrapped in swaddling clothes. A multitude of heavenly hosts sing joy to the world and then we reach the climax of the birth of Jesus when the scripture says “all those who heard it marveled at those things which were told them by the shepherds (Luke 2:18 NKJV). The word “all” could mean any number of people. We cannot begin to count the witnesses to Christ’s birth. The coming of Christ casts a wide net.

In my humble opinion, the words Christ plus Mass define the community that welcomed Jesus Christ into the world. Yes, the word “mass” has meaning in regards to days of observance for spiritual holidays and festivals. Mass also means a large number of people or objects crowded together. Simply speaking, Christmas means Christ’s mass of people or Christ’s community.

Why do you think the Bible was intentional to include so many people within this nativity scene? The story could have been told revealing only Joseph and Mary and Jesus in a stable. That is not the case. They were not alone in that moment. They were surrounded by people. His people.

I have heard someone say that no one should be alone at Christmas. I believe that is true. Do you see how so many different people from all around were gathered into the nativity scene? Christ’s birth story is an example of how we should intentionally gather together. Although this event happened thousands of years ago, Jesus is still gathering people to his story. Christmas is a time to gather. Let’s pray that no one in our community spends Christmas alone. Make it happen. I extend many blessings to you and your Christmas community, here in Suffolk and everywhere Christmas is remembered.


QuaWanna Bannarbie is an adjunct professor of nonprofit leadership and management with Indiana Wesleyan University, National and Global. Her children attend Suffolk Public Schools. Connect with her via iamquawanna@thebiggerme.net or via Twitter @QNikki_Notes.