"Welcome to the Sojourners Neighborhood Center for our very first Christmas!" exclaimed 15-year-old Teresa. Her greeting was followed by a Christmas play, The Day Jesus Came to Us, and a program of dance, poetry, and songs performed by 10 girls, ages 8 to 15, from our neighborhood.
Fifty people had gathered, including families and friends, to enjoy the program, the first event to be held in the newly renovated ground floor of the neighborhood center. Afterward people lingered for a time of fellowship and refreshment.
A few of us at Sojourners had dreamed of starting a children's program operated out of the Neighborhood Center in the fall of 1983. Despite the support of the community as a whole and of its local ministries staff, we were faced with a lack of resources, time, and energy, and the program never materialized. Without a structured program, we tried as best we could to keep in touch with neighborhood children through our personal relationships with them.
As Advent approached, Sister Abigail Maria of the Little Sisters of Jesus, who volunteers regularly at the center, and I felt more and more that we wanted somehow to share Christmas with some of the neighborhood girls. On the spur of the moment, we asked them to join us for an hour each Wednesday during Advent to light an Advent candle and talk about Christmas. Ten girls came to our first meeting. When we talked about what Christmas meant to them, they spoke of presents, money, and clothes; but they listened attentively and were eager to learn when we talked about the birth of Jesus.