Monday, December 22, 2014

The Places Jesus Would Go

Well, it's two days until Christmas Eve and Mission Street Church has done our utmost to get the word out about our two worship services on Dec. 24 (5:00 and 7:00), held at the Spanish Hills Country Club (999 Crestview Ave., Camarillo, CA).  Actually, in my 15 years of ministry, I hardly remember a Christmas Eve where more has been done to prepare for this service.  To this end;

*  40,000 postcards have been sent to every resident of Camarillo
*  A sticker was on the cover of the Ventura County Star
*  An article is being written for the Ventura Star coming out on Tuesday
*  An ad was in the Acorn Newspaper and Happenings Magazine
*  Liz Brackenbury (LA Opera Singer) is singing "O Holy Night"
*  A free gift has been procured (a votive battery powered candle) for all guests
*  A Boston Pops concert pianist will play welcome music on a grand piano
*  Incredible catering has been arranged for all guests

And the list goes on.  But one of the things I am most proud of is the personal effort that has gone out to get the word out.  To this end, I have personally visited over 300 stores, restaurants, and businesses in town, letting people know about the evening.

And as I have visited these stores, one stark reality has come to my attention.  Lots of churches reach out on Christmas Eve, but not many churches reach out to:

The Places Jesus Would Go

As I made my way through the streets of Camarillo, I saw lots of Christmas postcards, ads, and banners featuring various Christmas and holiday celebrations, in various churches.  However, whenever I would come to one of the following:

*  A liquor store
*  A bar
*  A smoke and cigarette shop
*  A massage parlor
*  A tavern
*  A tattoo shop
*  A pawn shop

I found no Christmas flyers or brochures.  "Do such establishments not welcome religious outreach?" I thought to myself.  "Maybe these types of stores are just against God altogether," I wondered. I decided to test out this hypothesis.  And so, I entered what might be called a bit of a seedy bar in Camarillo.  As I ventured inside, the green hew of neon and the rusty pallor of inebriation hung in the air like chords from an old slack guitar.  The pool table lights swung over the emerald chipped tables like FBI interrogation lights.  Maybe this was a bad idea after all, I thought.

"Excuse me.  My name is Graham, and we are doing a Christmas Celebration at the Spanish Hills Country Club," I said, with a lump of nervousness in my throat.  "Would you like to put up a flyer and a  banner in your bar?"  A long pause ensued.  Then, from behind a wrinkled and be-tattoed grin, the bar tender said with a gravely voice that only a lifetime of smoking or working in coal mines could produce said; "Honey, you can hang that flyer anywhere you like.  And I will personally tell anyone that comes into this bar that they should go to your service."

I kid you not.  She was one of the nicest people I encountered on my 300 store treck.

And then it occurred to me.  These are:

The Places Jesus Would Go

Actually, because there was no place left in the hotel room over the bar, Joseph and Mary stayed in a manger (actually akin to a kind of homeless shelter in the first century).  Later, Jesus would grow up in a tiny cowboy town, known for it's rough establishments in Nazareth.  One of Jesus' disciples would later joke, "Can anything good come out of Nazareth?"  One of Jesus' favorite stopping points on his journeys between Galilee and Jerusalem was Jericho.  Jericho was the Wendover, Nevada of the time.  Jesus would visit bordello after bordello, bar after bar, tattoo parlor after tattoo parlor throughout his ministry.

And I think I know why.  Within such places are some of the nicest people you can ever meet.  This Christmas, sometime, I encourage you to enter and invite someone to a Christmas Eve service in one of

The Places Jesus Would Go

All For Now,

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