We have never been much of a “Annual Christmas Letter” kind of family. Maybe it is a professional hazard, but there never seems to be time in the late fall or winter to write a note to our family and friends with an update on what has happened in our lives over the past year. Most years I am lucky if I even get a traditional Christmas card in the mail before New Year’s Day.
But to be clear, I LOVE reading the Christmas letters that we receive from friends and family. Even when the anecdotes and accomplishments seem a little overblown, I still enjoy that sense of reconnection that I get from reading them. I love that I at least have a snapshot of what my college or seminary friends, members of my first congregation, and even distant relatives have been up to during the past year - especially people I don’t get to see or talk with very often.
As I was reading through our 2021 Advent Gift Market Catalog, I realized that it is in some ways our church’s Annual Christmas Letter - a letter written for and by members of a variety of church committees, councils and boards, sharing their work and priorities from the past year.
If you have never served on one of the groups that sponsor items in our alternative market, you might not be aware of the conversations that take place in the late spring and early fall when decisions are made about what items are included in the catalog. For some groups there are long-standing traditions that dictate their choices - like the Adult Education Committee’s commitment to supporting the West Philadelphia Alliance for Children’s work in staffing libraries in Philadelphia schools. For other groups their choice represents a new and urgent need from around the world, like PPE supplies for our longtime partners at the Emmanuel Hospital Association in India as they continue their fight against COVID-19. For some groups like the Music and Fine Arts Council, the Advent Gift Market is an opportunity to introduce the congregation to vital arts organizations in Philadelphia that are bringing art and music to places in need, such as T-VOCE, an inclusive choir that empowers and celebrates the voices of Philadelphia youth.
This catalog, the list of partners that are highlighted, and the opportunity to be generous to others as we celebrate the season with friends and family, is the story that we tell one another each year about who we are, the work we have done, the values we inhabit, and the partners we celebrate.
If you want to better understand what we do in mission, who we partner within the community and around the world, and how you can be a part of that work, the AGM Catalog is one of the best resources that gives you a snapshot of who we are as a church.
Of course, the AGM Catalog is not just for reading, it also is a way for you to share with your friends and family a little bit about what it means for you to be a part of this community as well. AGM insert cards will tuck nicely into your own annual Christmas letter. If you, like me, find it hard to put much together around the holidays, an AGM gift slipped inside a Christmas card is a way to tell your community that you may be busy in this complicated world, but never too busy to offer support and care to those in need.
You can shop AGM and browse all the items on our shopping site: www.BrynMawrAGM.com. You also can shop in person this year before and after worship at the AGM table in the Narthex of the Sanctuary.
May you enjoy your AGM Catalog reading and shopping this year. May we all celebrate the ways this season allows us to mark the past year and the work we all have ahead of us as we support our partners and share the love of God for the world this Advent and Christmas Season.