Monday, December 30, 2013

The Blessings of Christmastide

It's been a week of many worship services, and there could have been more.  I decided to only attend 1 Christmas Eve service, my favorite, the more contemplative one at 5 p.m.  Before that, on Sunday, I went to two services, and on Saturday night, the service of the longest night on Dec. 21.  I went to a Christmas Day service, and a service yesterday that reprised the Christmas cantata, along with Communion and the rite of healing.

You would think I would feel exhausted, and there's some of that, but more than exhaustion, I'm beginning to feel renewed.  It's been an autumn of much church activity, but not much that was nourishing.  Lots of discussion about finances, for example, perhaps necessary, but leaving me with more negative feelings than anything else.

It's good to feel hopeful again.

The most moving part of Christmastide so far happened in conjunction with our pastor's sabbatical.

On Sunday, Dec. 22, I wrote to our pastor.  I knew that he would be leaving for his sabbatical right after the Christmas Day service.  I assumed that he had set up some sort of blessing for himself, but I wanted to make sure.  I wrote a Facebook message:

"I also wondered--and it won't surprise me if you're 5 steps ahead of me, if we should have some sort of blessing for you on Christmas Day or at least a prayer. We send others off on life journeys with a laying on of hands and/or prayer. I would like us to do the same for you as you go to Sabbatical time.

I will take the risk of overstepping here: I will be at Christmas Day service. I could take the lead on this. I also understand if it's not cool in some way."
Come to find out, he hadn't made these arrangements, and he said he'd welcome a blessing.  And so, I spent a few days contemplating it.
We did the blessing and prayer just before the sending hymn, which was "Go Tell It On the Mountain."  That hymn couldn't have been more appropriate.
I knew that the Christmas Day service wouldn't be packed, and I was right.  As I had planned and hoped,  I invited those that wanted to participate in a prayer of blessing and sending to come forward.  Everyone did.
I asked our pastor if he was comfortable with us laying our hands on him, and he said, "Of course."  And we all did, and I prayed a prayer asking that his sabbatical be a time of refreshment and renewal.  I also asked for those of us left behind, that we also have a time of refreshment and renewal.  I asked for visions and discernment.  I asked that we all be kept safe until we were together again.
I was very pleased with how it went and how it was received.  I so often worry about overstepping, about people saying, "Who does she think she is?  She is not ordained.  She doesn't have the appropriate training."  I ignore that voice in my head, that worry.  It would have been far worse to send our pastor off on sabbatical with no blessing at all.
I've written before about how I feel we need to have more of these services of blessing, the laying on of hands.  We do it when people move, when people make major transitions.  But why save it for those special occasions?
I'm reminded of a time not so long ago when churches believed we shouldn't have Communion as often as we do.  And now, churches like mine believe we should have it as part of every worship service.  It nourishes us, so why limit it?
I dream of a day when we say the same thing about blessing and anointing and laying on of hands.


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