I woke up much too early for someone who spent Christmas Eve at church being part of 3 services and cleaning up afterwards. Yes, there's clean up to do--Communion dishware that needs tending, candles to be extinguished, sweeping--our church doesn't usually see this much traffic in one month, let alone a single night.
Most people I know have expressed shock and surprise at how I planned to spend my Christmas Eve, but as the daughter of a church musician and the granddaughter of a Lutheran pastor, spending most of Christmas Eve at church feels familiar to me.
Last night we had three very different services. The 5:00 service was more contemplative. It ended in the labyrinth. I've never celebrated Christmas Eve in a labyrinth, but it was really meaningful. One of our church musicians played "Silent Night" on the guitar as we walked. The sun had set, but it was still light enough to see. Christmas lights twinkled in the distance, and people were already shooting off their fireworks. Simply beautiful.
The 7:30 service was the family service, where many children had reading or singing parts. Those of us in a theological writing group also read our work (I'll post the poem that I read tomorrow). The 7:30 service was full of people new to us, people returning to us (but I didn't know them, since I've only been a member a short time), lots of babies crying, and little children talking.
As we stood in line for Communion, one of the toddlers caught sight of the manger, which had been empty for Advent, but now had a Baby Jesus in the manger (a little plastic looking for my taste, but I tried to squash that Critical Aesthetic voice in my head). The toddler squirmed with excitement in his mother's arms and screamed, "Mommy, Mommy, look. It's the BABY JESUS!" Then he sighed in contentment and said, "I love that baby."
If I had stayed home, I'd have missed that!
I don't have children of my own, so I'm always grateful for the chance to see them in action, to be reminded of the childhood wonder that used to be such a constant in my life and that I try to respark in my grown up self.
The 11:00 service was mostly comprised of the Christmas Cantata, in which my husband sang. I've been listening to him practice his part for over a month now, so it was fascinating to hear the whole thing, with all the voices. They sounded really wonderful. It's always amazing to me that you can take a volunteer force, practice for awhile, and change them into a cohesive whole. I sang in the cantata last year, and felt a vague twinge of missing that performance high.
Then at 12:30, we became the clean up crew. I was asleep by 1:30, which doesn't explain why I sprang awake at 6:45 this morning; as I said before, I have no children. I could have slept until noon.
Maybe I'll get lucky and find some time for a Christmas nap!
feeling the feelings…
1 year ago