by Leslie Scoopmire
One of the biggest blessings and privileges I have had in the last several years has been being able to be on staff at Camp Phoenix, the week-long summer camp sponsored by the Diocese of Missouri. I wasn’t able to go last year, and I missed it a lot. This year I am co-Spiritual Director with my friend Jillian, and it is a perfect ending to my summer as interim Youth Missioner for the diocese. I am also, for the first time, the priest present during most of camp.
Our camp theme this year has been centered on the nativity of Jesus—a concept that is especially interesting to talk about in the summer heat.
We started the week talking about the anticipation of Advent, and today we talked about Mary’s hopes for her child as revealed in the Magnificat, as well as the journey that Mary and Joseph took as they awaited Jesus’s birth. Tonight at camp fire time, we talked about celebrating Jesus’s birth tomorrow. One kid protested: “It’s August, not December!” And yet what better time to realize that Christmas isn’t so much about presents as presence—the presence of God with each of us, and also celebrating that presence in each other, no matter how different we may be.
The pageantry of Christmas is fun—but it also distracts us from understanding that after the presents have been unwrapped, the presence of Jesus in our lives is truly the enduring gift. As we all looked at each other around the camp fire, there were so many of our campers with their arms around each other, illuminated by camp fire light and candlelight, as we remembered the great gift of God coming into the world as one of us, but not just for a few years, but right now and for forever. “Silent night, holy night,” we sang, Jesus is God among us, the Light of the World, shining out of each of the faces we saw before us, campers, and counselors and staff. And I thanked them for being Jesus for me and for each other, the presence of the Living God, each year, and whenever we meet elsewhere. This is both the gift and the challenge of the Christian life.
It is our tradition to sing just the chorus of a song called “Sanctuary,” at the end of each camp fire, which asks the Lord to prepare each of us to be a sanctuary for God, giving up our lives as tribute and holy offering to the One who came into the world, entering time and history, to show us how to live more fully into our humanity. As we sing this song, family groups are dismissed one at a time to go to their cabins and get ready for sleep. No matter how many times we sing the song each night, the words and music never wears thin, because at the core of the song is the idea of being thankful—thankful for this precious life we have been given, thankful for each other, thankful for the image of God shining out into the world.
Leslie Scoopmire is a retired teacher and a priest in the Diocese of Missouri, and a graduate from Eden Theological Seminary in Webster Groves, MO. She is Interim Youth Missoner for the Diocese of Missouri, and tweets daily prayers and news of note @Scoopexplainsit. Her blog is Abiding in Hope.
Image: by Leslie Scoopmire — Camp Phoenix Campfire