Advent 20

Bulletins are printed, folded, and stuffed.

Candles are put into holders – new ones this year!!! – and set.

Sugar has taken up a seemingly permanent place on our staff table.

All is in readiness for worship on Sunday and Christmas Eve worship (4:00 PM and 11:00 PM) on Monday.

And now we wait.

For preachers, this is a time of fervent mulching and prayer.  Yes, we pray for the perfect sermon on Christmas Eve, but really, that isn’t the point.

The point for this preacher is that there is an almost physical desire that hope would be named as more important than fear in this world.  My hope is that those who come in out of the cold might find welcome in this house.  My hope is that the power of Christ Jesus might take up the places of empty and despair that sound such clang in the souls of the walking wounded who include our very selves.

Oh, I have such hopes.

And those hopes are perhaps made more strong by the wash of violence and snarl that seem to be dominating our collective consciousness.

We cannot afford to be a people of hate.  We cannot afford to allow it any purchase in our being.  We cannot afford to be cavalier about our faith and our witness because it takes enormous and conscious effort to be a voice crying out in the wilderness of this time:  Prepare the way of our God.  The wounded will be made whole.  All flesh shall see it together.  For the mouth and the heart of our God have spoken it.

We are ready. We are ready we are ready we are ready.

We are ready for peace to speak and soak into the rough places.

We are ready.




‘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.