What can I say – this has been a very strange Christmas but a very good one.
The strange part came mostly from the weather. Leading into the week, the reports were for a major winter storm. All of the forecasters were saying leave early and come back late. We were going to get hit by a major storm that would shut down Iowa. Well, it didn’t really happen. At least not around here. This was the Christmas that reminded us that weather prediction is still an inexact science. This was a storm that just didn’t want to follow any of the usual patterns. As a result, the predictions were way off. Let me be clear – I am NOT faulting the meteorologists. They did their best. All of the potential for what they were warning of was there. It just didn’t materialize where they expected it and in the way they predicted. Instead of snow, we had rain. Two degrees colder and that rain would have been a foot of snow. Anyway, we had a white Christmas without any major inconvenience. Very nice for my home town.
The good parts were many. Christmas eve I started with a 4:30 children’s service at our church. The Rev was in charge of this service so I really wanted to be there. What a treat. There must have been at least 60 little ones up front for the children’s message. The excitement and spirit of these little tykes was infectious.
This was the high point of the season. The Rev had been building to this night all Advent season. She had gone in with a plan to tie all of the services of Advent together and she pulled it off. When we went in on the first Sunday of Advent, we were greeted by an empty chancel area. The pulpit was gone, as was the Lord’s table and the baptismal font. There was nothing but a pile of old lumber and a couple of old saw horses.
As we progressed through Advent, each week we saw more. The next Sunday we found the beginnings of the stable. Then we saw more coming into shape. By Christmas Eve we found the stable complete with a manger and straw spread around. The Rev had set out to give us all the opportunity to experience Christmas anew and she succeeded, at least in the eyes of many of us in the pews. I heard many very positive comments in the lounge after the services. Of course I don’t hear many of the negative comments but if something really bombs, people are usually not shy about who hears their comments. Well done Rev – I’m very proud of you.
Speaking of proud – Christmas Eve was a night to remember for me. After being very emotional in the Rev’s service at 4:30, I went to hear my daughter sing at her church at a 7:00 service. This was mostly a more “conventional” hymn service – well that’s what I thought I was going to anyway.
The highlight for me was hearing my daughter sing “Oh Holy Night”. This is one of her showcase pieces. The choir director has written an arrangement just for her. She is featured and backed by the rest of the choir. This night was divine. I have to admit though, I made the mistake of closing my eyes so i could concentrate on the music. I was carried away by the music. Tears started to form in my eyes it was so beautiful. And then, at the end – when she hits the high note in the final chorus – I totally lost it. I was sobbing. Yes, I was totally embarrassed – but also very proud and very moved.
Then this hairy, smelly old goat herd came wandering into the sanctuary looking for his lost she-goat Ellie. It was Pastor Paul. I had heard that he would occasionally go in character to deliver his message but I had never seen him in action. Well what a treat. Paul did an excellent job of telling the story of the shepherds and what it really meant when they came to visit baby Jesus. I have seen many speakers use gimmicks like this to make a point and many times it comes off hokey. This one was right on. Paul did a great job of portraying the character and using the character to communicate his message. Then he finished by actually finding his goat Ellie. A real she-goat in the sanctuary, that was a first for me.
It has been a great Christmas – I hope it was for you as well. As we all look forward to the new year and a new decade may the Lord, whose birth we just celebrated, bring you