Does community mean crowd?

By John D. Pierce

How many people does it take to celebrate Christmas?

Counting the figurines comprising our nativity scene — including the late-arriving wise men — apparently not very many.

Yet the success of modern revelry is often measured by its crowd size.

“We had 62 people at our house this year” (with almost no food fights over politics).

“The church was full for all 12 services on Christmas Eve” (and the rental camel behaved throughout).

The concept of “the more the merrier” is embraced to varying degrees according to one’s personality type — and depending on family dynamics that mix only during holidays and funerals.

Do you revel in the many family and community celebrations of Christmas — or would you rather mark the holidays more quietly?

And, beyond the festive season we’re now in, can one experience healthy Christian community without dealing with crowds?

There is a shaming in some families and church circles of those who prefer engagement with others in smaller doses.

I’m more sensitive now to those at various places on the social celebration spectrum since recognizing my own gradual but consistent shift in personality type. While still comfortable in crowds that used to energize me, I’d choose a small dinner with four (maximum six) over a party of 40 or 400.

In recent decades my “E” has gradually slipped into an “I”. While far from a recluse, I enjoy times of reading and writing and even eating alone that would not have met my social needs in the past.

I still laugh at a line from singer Larry Gatlin, when the concert hall in Raleigh long ago had as many empty as filled seats for a concert. He assured us that the low attendance would not make the experience less enjoyable, adding, “Some of the best times in my life there were just two of us.”

During the holidays it is wise to acknowledge (and even appreciate) that not everyone has the same idea of what makes for a meaningful celebration — and to compromise without judgment. Some seek unlimited camels and crowds while others are satisfied with a few candles and quiet Communion.

While some bounce eagerly from party to party others would rather share a meal and conversation with another person or two or few.

Big is not necessarily better. Nor is it bad. It is just one of the ways to engage with others to find community and shared joy and hope.

And even in large gatherings — whether worship, a ballgame or a concert — it is possible to be among others while still enjoying private reflections.

So here’s a Christmas wish for you — regardless of your Myers-Briggs or Enneagram type:

For the many who spend much time alone, and perhaps experience loneliness — as well as those who just can’t get too much corporate celebration — may the many church, community and family festivities bring you an abundance of joy this season.

And to those who’d rather share eggnog and fruitcake with a small stable of family and friends, may you find an escape route from the crowds — free of condemnation.

Merry Christmas to each and every one!

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