a Happy ChristmasBeing a bit of a whiner (ahem), I find myself doing quite a bit of eye-rolling and complaining when I look on the liturgical calendar and find that Christmas Eve is falling on the 4th Sunday of Advent yet again. This year was no exception (although frankly I was quite glad to be working as an Interim, and not circuit riding my way across Oklahoma like last Christmas Eve). We did our best at St. C's to plan a reasonable set of services for a congregation of our size, which included a joint service of Morning Prayer for 4 Advent, followed by decorating and a potluck in the Parish Hall.
I'm going to learn, one of these days, to just stuff go and leave it in God's hands. Because after all of my worrying about assorted liturgical details, and wondering if anyone would show up, and if we would have a nice time, and all the other things that clergy worry about in the week leading up to Christmas Eve. . .it was one of the most lovely Christmases I can remember (and I'm writing this before Husband and I have even done our Santa moments, as he is off to do a Christmas morning service at his church).
During Advent, St. C's did an Angel Tree, like many other churches I've attended in the past. We had angels on the tree with requested Christmas presents for members to buy for people in the community. But what made it so special for me was that these were presents for people we knew. We had angels on the tree for the residents of some group homes for developmentally disabled adults that we have been working with for the past six months--some were presents for the homes themselves, and some were presents for some of the residents who have no living family members. And some of the other presents were suggested to us by a social worker who's working with me with a family in our geographical area.
After our service was over in the morning, and while many of the congregation were decorating, the coordinator for the group homes came up to pick up the presents, and she was staggered by what she saw. The pile of presents we had gathered had been stacked in front of the altar to be blessed by our worship, and it was an impressive sight. As I'm writing this,I'm sitting about two inches from our tree and the pile of presents underneath, and I'm not going to deny that it's a good thing, but I don't think a pile of presents has ever made me so joyful as that pile in front of the altar yesterday morning.
It's been a scattered holiday season for us. We finally got our tree up on Saturday, and it's just a bare tree--thank goodness for pre-lit artificial trees. I have done no baking, Christmas card writing--I got just enough done. But a funny thing happened--it's been one of the most wonderful Christmases I can remember.
I was at Large Unnamed Chain Craft Store a couple of days ago picking up some last minute items, and I overheard a woman say to another woman that every year she tried to make Christmas bigger and better than the last, but that this year she was really struggling with that. I'm grateful to her because she gave me my sermon illustration for the late service last night, but she also gave me a thought that I have been pondering in my heart--it's not about doing Christmas bigger and better. It's about being attentive to the places where Jesus is coming into the world, and putting yourself there with him.
A blessed Christmas to all!