It’s Christmas Eve. Well, it’s Christmas Eve for about 35 more minutes on the east coast of the U.S. As I write the beginning of this. That counts. And it’s been a long day, and I’m fairly tired, and I got to thinking. I got to thinking about Christmas and Christmas Eve.
Maybe I should start with earlier today. I’d start with 1998, because I’m headed there, but I think first I’d better start with earlier today. I’ll let you in on a little secret. Christmas Eve is not a relaxing, quiet time for ministers. No, Christmas Eve is busy. Now, the church that I serve is much smaller than the church I belong to. The church I belong to is probably about five times larger than the church I serve. Even so, there are certain things that just happen at Christmas. At nearly every church.
So there was the Christmas pageant service. That was the early service. I didn’t have a lot to do with that service, because it was mostly the province of the Director of Spiritual Development and the lay leaders who wrote that service. I just had to do the invitation to the offering and read the benediction that someone else wrote. Really, I mainly had to show up on time. Sort of easing into the evening.
Even so, there were things that had to get done, and things that had to get done for the late service, so I got to church at about 1:40 in the afternoon. And that’s when 20-year-old called me. Yup. I hadn’t even stepped out of my car yet. I could tell from the sound of her voice that this wasn’t a “hey mom, just calling to see what’s up” call. Nope. Her car had broken down. Not 40 minutes earlier when I was home. Nope. Now. When I was already at work. OK. “Call the dealership, get a tow. Get home. Get a ride to choir tonight.”
During her adventure, 20-year-old came across three strangers who helped her out in various ways. She was grateful. I’m grateful. She got home.
I did the two church services. The later service, at 7:00, was Lessons and Carols. That was my idea (and I have to say, it is beyond cool that my supervisor took my suggestion and pretty much let me take the lead on the whole service – since I’m the intern). I had a lot more to do in the later service. I did some biblical storytelling, and we did a choral reading for one of the lessons, and there was some other stuff.
Then church was over, my supervisor and were the last ones in the church, we locked up, and we left. And I headed home. And then I made a decision.
I was getting home just around 9:00 pm, and I thought, “gee, I think 20-year-old should be getting out of church about now; I’ll go pick her up.” Haha! That was an interesting decision. OK, so the service at my home church didn’t begin at 8:00 – that was the choir rehearsal. So when I got there, the service had just begun. So I stayed, and figured I’d pick up daughter after the service. This is now my third Christmas Eve service of the evening. I have been CHURCHED. But I like Christmas carols, so that’s good. After the service I keep looking for daughter, and she’s not there. I ask a choir member, and she tells me that daughter wasn’t there, and that they were wondering where she was.
Hmmm…so I text daughter and discover she is home. I went home. “How come you’re not at church?” Well, it turns out she had a migraine. Oh, well, this, I understand. Boy do I understand that.
And this is where 1998 comes in. I’m fairly certain it was 1998, anyway. And this is 15 years later, which is interesting, because Don was 15 years older than I am. And it was 10 years before I started seminary. Well, 9 1/2.
Christmas Eve 1998 was a rough year. Twenty-year-old was five. And sick. And I had a massive migraine. Massive. I’d stayed at church to sing in the late service (which was at 10:00 then), and when we got home I was a wreck. Don had to wrap all the presents because I couldn’t move. Then in the middle of the night, 20-year-old (who was five) was puking and one of my older daughters had to wake me up to clean her up. Oh joy! So I was thinking about that when I got home and discovered that 20-year-old had missed church because of a migraine.
Sometimes things don’t work out the way we plan. I had to stop in the middle of the benediction tonight because I was about to sneeze. Not how we’d planned it, but that’s how life goes.
Back in 1998 I wasn’t a bereaved parent yet. I wasn’t in seminary yet. And I certainly wasn’t a widow. I know that when I envisioned Christmas 15 years in the future, in included my deceased son and my husband. I’d heard the call to ministry, but I don’t know if, 15 years ago, I would have thought that I would have answered it by now and be so close to ordination (well, I hope I am, anyway).
Some things change. Some things just don’t. Lots of planning, but cars break down and people still get migraines. Even so, Christmas comes. Just ask the Grinch.
May your Christmas be filled with the light of new possibilities. Peace be with you.
That’s my mite.