Me during the second verse of Silent Night last night: It would probably be bad if I fell asleep holding this lit candle.
I think I forgot a few things about my plan to take photos in the last minutes of a flow of ministry that had accelerated as Advent advanced. Yesterday, December 24, did double duty on the church calendar as the fourth Sunday of Advent (morning service) and Christmas Eve (evening service). Our pastor, Eric, and I divided up the duties and I had primary leadership of the morning service and then assisted him in leading the evening service. Plus we both had lots of ministry and family stuff happening behind the scenes. My phone wasn’t even with me as I held my candle. I dropped it in my office on one of my laps around the building before the service started.
Advent and Christmas worship for me will likely never be slow and reflective, calm and quiet–or at least, those will be the rare moments. I’ve chosen a vocation that guarantees I’ll typically spend December in high gear and Christmas Eve leading worship for my congregation. I have watched my pastors and pastor friends do it for years, even as I’ve experienced my own version of the Advent/Christmas hustle in youth and family ministry. I have been the beneficiary of their well-prepared liturgies and sermons, their leadership in worship, their careful planning that made the moment my candle was lit ahead of Silent Night magical and hope-filled and holy.
And I am grateful for all of it.
I love ministry, especially on those days and in those times that are accelerated and have special meaning and particular traditions. I love the joy of families and church family gathering, the expectation of what comes next, the unison voices reading and singing words new and ancient. I love the surprises and missteps, when planning comes to fruition, and the visible movement of the Holy Spirit as a congregation worships together. I love all of the behind-the-scenes ministry that happens, what I see happening by the hands and dedication of so many volunteers and staff, and what I never know about or acknowledge–God knows and blesses every bit of it. And I am thankful for a husband who is supportive and flexible, who handles home and family stuff during these times so that I can be fully present before God as I follow a call to ministry.
This morning, I’m awake. I am about 3/4 of the way through my first cup of coffee, finally taking a few moments to reflect.
Rise from the dead,
and Christ will shine on you.’ (Ephesians 5:14b)
Moments from yesterday are drifting back to me, moments I sped through out of necessity of whatever came next.
The Advent candle lighting participant who asked, “Did you like my ad lib? When I slipped in the King James version instead?”
The glimpses from afar of the tiny newborn baby, daughter of one of our nursery workers, in the nursery at both services. I do wish I could go back and slow down at that moment to coo over her for a second or two, because she’s wonderful.
The seventh grade ukulele player whispering “I’m scared” in my ear as the children’s sermon she was helping me lead was starting.
The teenage scripture reader who was trying to figure out what it meant that he was only to read through verse 4a which sparked a fun, short conversation about how maybe on Christmas Eve we don’t read the part b of the verse (spoiler alert: the wicked are struck dead).
The quick greetings of worship participants who arrived early enough that I could stop and chat for a moment as pews were claimed and seats were taken, and the even quicker greetings that happened at the back door of the sanctuary as families, many containing past youth group participants who stopped for hugs and hellos before exiting into the frigid night.
Standing on the front walk of the church, helping Gary dig the candles out of the ice luminaries, the ones he spent all of December making, once the service was over last night on a very cold Christmas Eve night.
What a wonderful time of the year!
May your Christmastide be peaceful and magical!