Tuesday, December 25, 2018

Christmas Eve 2018: A Recap

When people have asked how we would spend our Christmas, my first thought is always:  in church.  I have no regrets about this fact.  Advent and Christmas have always been my favorite times in church and in the larger world, and I'm happy to hang out in church on Christmas Eve.

Yesterday I made this Facebook post:

"I need that Christmas message. No, not the baby in a manger message--I need the "It's a Wonderful Life" Christmas message, the one that tells us that one life, no matter how seemingly insiginificant, is so important, and that the trajectory of all the adjacent lives would have been much worse without that one light of a life, shining in the darkness. Wait, that's the baby in a manger message too!

It's 1938 in terms of geopolitics. We are in desperate need of that Christmas message, delivered by fierce prophets or angels that we hear on high or a Frank Capra film or Linus, telling the Peanuts gang about the true meaning of Christmas by reciting Luke."

It's interesting to me to return to these Christmas texts and images year after year as I reflect on what has the most meaning.  This year, the idea of a just ruler leapt out of the passages.  In the past, I've been uncomfortable with the idea of God as king.  This year, with incompetent and/or evil governments taking up so much room in the world, the idea of a God who restores a good pattern of order made me weep with fierce longing.

I have been attending this church for over 10 years, so it's been enough time that the children I once knew as babies are now reading the texts--and some of them are standing in the make-up and heels and Christmas finery, which is both joyous and sobering.  I found myself offering up prayers for the safety of all the adolescent girls at the service last night.  And then I broadened my prayer--we can all use safety as we navigate our way in the hostile world.

Here are some other highlights from the evening:

--We had a typo:  Mary aid him in a manger.  It should have been laid, but not every reader figured that out in time.  So there was one odd moment when I thought, wait, Mary ate him in a manger?  

--Our handchime choir, of which I am part, had a ringing success.  When we first began rehearsing two weeks ago, what we chimed bore no resemblance to "Good Christian Friends, Rejoice."  Last night, we got there!  And I didn't make any mistakes.  I usually get a bell mixed up at least once or miss my cue.  Last night, I was as close to perfect as I expect to be.

--My spouse and 2 musician friends sang "In the Deep Midwinter" before the start of the 11:00 service.  I knew that they had only just sung it together once, earlier at the 7:30 service.  And yet, they sounded like they had been rehearsing for weeks. 

--I love the various sensory details:  the candles and other forms of twinkly lights, the decorations, the music, and the stray whiff of pine needles here and there.

--But more than anything else, I love the central message:  God loves us so much that comes to be with us--and the larger message about the various ways that illumination breaks through into all our most resistant places.

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