Merry Christmas Eve! We have made it through Advent, and tonight and tomorrow morning we get the opportunity to celebrate with reckless abandon. Frankly, this Advent feels like it flew by quicker than usual. That might be that I am getting older and time does that as we age. It might have been because we had lots of really wonderful and deeply traumatic things happen to our little congregation over the last few weeks. But for whatever reason, it is suddenly Christmas Eve.
This is my 23rd Christmas Eve as an ordained pastor. With the exception of one Christmas Eve in 2006 when I was in between churches, I have celebrated Christmas Eve with the churches I have served since 2000. Like the Saturday before Easter, there is a sacredness to preparing for our services. But unlike Easter (usually because of the busyness of Holy Week), the day of Christmas Eve is usually very quiet in the church building. I usually spend the day preparing the space and making sure all my ducks are in a row before people show up around 6:30 or so. I usually enjoy this time of preparation.
The last two Christmas Eves, however, felt ominous not quiet. The quiet is lovely when I know that my some of my people will join me in this sacred space of ours. But the last two Christmases, we worshipped remotely, and there was something eerie about the quiet before the quiet. Does that make sense? As I look back, I remember how hard it was to lead worship every Sunday and holiday alone in this building. For almost two years, we worshipped remotely, and we did it well. But as a worship leader and preacher, I feed off of the energy in the room, and there was always a hint of loneliness when leading worship alone, especially on Christmas Eve. I think it was last Christmas Eve that I wasn’t heard at all during the service because of technical difficulties.
For me, the silence of Christmas Eve day is a prelude to the noise of excited children and extended families bustling in. The silence holds promise for me, the promise of the Christ child and the promise of community. Some of us will still join in our celebration tonight on Zoom, and I am infinitely grateful that we have the capacity to provide a robust hybrid worship experience. That is one of our most precious learning experiences from the pandemic…we are much more inclusive for people who are not able to be in the sanctuary for whatever reason. I am also incredibly grateful that our building will have some of the chaos, the noise, the chatter of community again. I have missed seeing squirrelly kids ready to open presents and adult children coming home to COGS. I have missed seeing new people visit for the first time. I have missed singing carols together and hearing the Christmas story through many different voices. We are not completely out of the woods with Covid, but we are slowly emerging and it feels so wonderful.
So right now, I am basking in the quiet. It is pregnant with hope, peace, joy, love. It is bursting with potential and community. God is good. And the Christ child brings us the vision of God for all of God’s people.