Sorry, gentle readers, about the black hole of post-Christmas, post-family-crisis time I slipped into. Thanks for tuning back in.
Christmas Eve services at my two churches were special, each in their own way. The sermon was the same, and a lot of the hymns were good old standby Christmas hymns, and each ended with candle-lighting and “silent night.” But the spirit of each service was unique and, in its way, perfect for them and for me.
At Trinity, the service was a celebratory affair with about 120 people. There was a lot of music, sing by a large choir and a few soloists. There was a children’s time, where I had all the kids (and all the congregation) make animal sounds to imitate the chaos into which Jesus was born (and I made my family be the camels). We read a litany of Las Posadas, making room for the Holy Family. There was a visual projection with text and modern pictures representing the Christmas story in some interesting ways. After “Silent Night,” we sang “Joy to the World,” and people chattered together down the stairs and out into the icy night, lit with luminaries.
At Grace, it was a different service. Not better; not worse. Different. It was a traditional service of Lessons and Carols, telling the story of God’s promised deliverance and the birth of Jesus. Readers stood where they were and read their passages, and nearly everyone had one to read, since there were about twelve people present. We sang a few verses of eight different hymns. At about quarter of midnight, we formed a small circle and lit our candles from the Christ Candle, and sang “Silent Night.” I gave a benediction, and people filed out of the anctuary silently, extinguishing their candles only after they crossed the threashold into the foyer. Several people stayed behind to strip the altar of the Christmas Eve stuff and reset it for Sunday. They too worked in silence, and only when the last person left the sanctuary was the Christ Candle finally, reverently, extinguished.
In the car on the way home, my husband (who had been to Grace for the first time that night) laughed and said, “This really is the perfect match for you. About 75% of the time, you are exuberant and justice-oriented and go-get’um, and about 25% of the time you are prayerful and reverent and contemplative.”
It’s true, and in that sense, these churches and I seem perfectly matched. Except that I think I need to challenge by exuberent congregation to be more contempletive and my reverent congregation to be more go-get’um. So maybe I have my personality inverted for what I need to do.
And each of us have those tension in us– we’re all a little Martha and a little Mary, a little service and a little contemplation. The question is, how to we nurture our lesser gifts, and build wholeness and balance in our spiritual lives? How do we do this in the lives of our churches?