A Kind of Hush

People want to feel sorry for me this time of year.

Yes, Advent and the run-up to Christmas is a busy time for church pastors.

And, it is so real, this remembering of promises of peace and the gifting of hope. People come to church leaning in to hear the song of the angels.

We do a lot this time of year. This Sunday we will treat our hearts to a service of Lessons and Carols. The following Sunday the children will lead us in a telling of the Christmas miracle. The next Sunday we will expand into a Taize service meant to help us make space in our souls for the Word Made Flesh.

We’ll have a special service of Hope and Healing where we’ll name our losses and allow tears to be. There are teas and gatherings and Christmas toy drives and gift wrapping offered at our Thrift Store.

While all these things are going on, people will be hospitalized and will welcome a church pastor. Families will gather and dissolve. Gifts will be pursued and purchased and children’s wishes will be heard and all of what we do happens because in Jesus flesh became the living place of God.

That’s church in these days.

For me, it is one of the best seasons of the year. On the 25th I will rest. But in the meantime, church is a stable offering warmth in the sometimes bitter cold of life.

This innkeeper gives thanks.

Advent Day 13

Sometimes it feels like this time of Advent is a bit like making Jello (which I do seldom, truth be told).

 

There is an end vision of what will be but really, who knows how the stuff will interact together?  Will it all gel?

 

I think about the ingredients that make for a fine bit of gelatinous goodness for me.

 

Dressing my house matters.  Christmas tree lights and crèche sets and the Christmas Village and the Advent calendar with the half-dog-eaten stuffed bear that moves around and ceramic angels and treasures unpacked year after year.

 

Planning feasts matters.  We’ll host both moms and four of six kids on Christmas Eve so planning the turkey dinner between worship services and imagining the Swedish Pancakes and leftovers on Christmas Day makes for happiness.

 

Choosing gift treats matters.  I love giving presents.  It may be a sickness.  It’s joy to hold beloveds in my thoughts and imagine what might delight them.

 

Planning worship matters.  Christmas Eve services resonate with power and love.  At the 4:00 family-friendly service we romp.  With kids jazzed and adorned in Christmas finery and parents delighted to have made it to the finish line, there is a zing of energy that connects us all to joy.  At the 11:00 service, the air seems to shimmer with hope and the vision of good will for all people. The notion of peace on earth feels heart-possible.

 

Love matters.  When the kids are in town they go to Cooper’s early service (married to a UM pastor, I am) and my late service.  Truly, preacher’s kids are marvels.  There is this heart valentine that blubbers me every year:  Cooper’s late service is at 10:00 PM on Christmas Eve.  Richfield’s is at 11:00 PM.  Following his service Cooper motors over to Richfield UMC and slides into the pew next to the kids in order to be present for worship.  Every year my heart leaps as I see him at the back of the sanctuary.  Love matters.

 

Savor matters.  Finding time to be still and open to the birth of wonder matters greatly.  At such times I remember that life is not an endurance contest but rather is invitation to miracle.  Day by day, the opportunity to allow love to grow presents itself.  Day by day, the gift is given.

 

So, what makes for wonder Jello in your Advent season of preparation?  How will you honor the desires of your heart and the finitude of your ability to do it all?  What are the spaces you make for savor to happen?

 

I pray delight for us all in this season of preparation.

 

savor

‘Tis the day after Christmas.  And all through the house there is gratitude.

Three worship services are still thrumming in my body.  Christmas Eve is an amazing time to be church.

For the early (4:00) service chaos is an expected guest.  Kids are amped, parents are excited, grandparents shine with wonder, and all that energy is gathered within the walls of a sanctuary that has for decades held the prayers, celebrations and heart aches of a people.  The dispersed come home to celebrate life.

We have a tradition of inviting one of “our own” church sons to play classical guitar for the early service.  He grew up in the church, a musical son of musical and heart-huge parents.  A month earlier we had been together in the sanctuary to give thanks for the life of his mom.  It was a sweet and achy thing for him to share his musical gift without the physical shine of his proud mom.  And, for all that, she was present.

Richfield UMC has an amazing depth of musical heart.  We shared the witness of strings and voices and organ and children song and heard the story of how it was Jesus was born and the angels wove grace into our hearts.

You could see it in the candle-lit faces of those gathered.  Star shine was taken in and shared.

Christmas day worship was a romp.  We declare Sunday Christmas Days to be “slipper Sundays” so folk came with outlandish feet regalia.  The whole church took a deep gulping breath of nostalgia when one of our children came up for the children’s lesson in his sleeper jammies and slippers.  We sang, we heard the heart speakings of two of our members, we laughed and we celebrated the birthday of the Prince of Peace.  And leading worship in my slippers was delicious!

There are those who feel sorry for clergy at Christmas time.  Don’t.  True, the needful things that must be done are amplified when preparing a church is added to preparing for a home for Christmas.

But the gifts I received will long linger.  Seeing faces lit by candles while singing “Silent Night” is holy communion.  Watching people share love and light is salvation.  Being a part of the song and heart weave that is Christmas Eve and Christmas Day worship is amazing grace.

And, I was blessed with the candle-kissed sight of my own beloveds; children and husband and former husband too.  Seeing those faces in a shared pew on a night meant for knowing that with God all things are possible.  I was in the presence of emmanuel, God with us.

So it was.  So it is.