Oh my goodness! This has been quite the Christmas. I'm finding it a little hard to believe that it is 11:30 p.m. on Christmas night and I am looking at the end of Christmas day. Yesterday and today have been so full; both in terms of time and emotion I hardly know where to begin. Christmas Eve day the plan was to finish my last minute grocery shopping, head up to the county next door and see L at the jail, then get ready for all my various church activities with plenty of time to spare. My first inkling that all was not going to go as planned was when I blithely announced myself to the little intercom at the jail as "L's pastor, here for a visit" and was told, "Oh he is not here. He was released to the custody of the other county on December 18th." "He was what?" I asked, rather aghast, "Does that mean he is in jail in my county?" "He was released to the custody of the other county on December 18th," the voice repeated, "that is all I can tell you." "Wow," I said, "This sure makes it difficult for those who are trying to visit people!" "Yes, Merry Christmas," said the voice, in a We Are Done Now tone. "Merry Christmas" I replied as I left the jail and headed back to my car for the thirty mile drive home. I immediately called C. "I’ve lost L again!" I wailed. We talked for the first several miles of my drive and agreed that a) this pretty much bites, b) I don't have a whole lot of control over it, and he has less, and c) it's time the ministerial association and the jails talk about how we can work together on pastoral care. Thirty minutes later, somewhat calmer, I arrived at the jail back in my own county and sure enough, there was L. He had been frantic when they moved him again. Had tried to call me but didn’t have enough minutes left on his calling card. Had been praying he said right before I came that I would somehow find out where he was. He cried though most of this visit. I was a little damp myself. He had a Christmas card for me in his "effects" but the jailer said he could not get it for me. Policy. L said he had done a drawing for another inmate in trade for the card. I told him I can wait till he gets out for my Christmas card.
So given all this I was now behind schedule. Got to church late to get ready for the five o’clock. Unfortunately so did a lot of other people, and Things Went Awry. The carol sing that was to begin fifteen minutes before the service actually began five minutes before and was, shall we say, brief. As I processed ( as a member of the choir for this service) up I looked at the altar and realized that the altar guild person had forgotten to change the paraments and…well, it was still Advent! All three of us were there, none of us had seen it. Oh, well. This sort of set the tone for the service….things that could go wrong did….missed cues, forgotten lines, acolytes not being in the right place at the right time...
I’ve written before about my overfunctioning nature. I am working on not doing this. But there is a fine line sometimes on knowing when to just let things go. When I do, sometimes things just well….go….and that is not a good thing, especially on Christmas Eve! So after service I had a little liturgical meltdown. I had a chat with the acolyte (who was returning at 11). I talked with my team member who was coming back to celebrate with me at 11 as well, about my need to tighten up the ship and clean up our act. I think I did it respectfully from that place of “this is my need” and ownership of my liturgical geekiness. We did much better overall. We still started late. But we got in three carols. The altar was beautifully dressed in Christmas white. The choir sang quite well despite little rehearsal with a late arriving organist. C came over after her service and sang with our choir, as did M’s daughter. M’s sermon was lovely. M and I had decided to concelelebrate. She asked that I start the Eucharistic Prayer, as we sing it and the Preface, and of the two of us, I am the more confident singer. Or I guess I should say, normally I am the singer. Last night I opened my mouth and croaked. Apparently a month of Lessons and Carols rehearsals, the event itself, two services and whatever else just had it’s way with me….or God decided to play with me one more time….but the beautiful Preface of the Incarnation was one long tortured scratch, and I have never been so glad to get to the Sanctus in my life. But the rest of the service went beautifully and it was really quite wonderful to celebrate the Eucharist together with my friend, fellow traveler, and colleague in ministry. I could feel the shared holy energy and spirit present there and it was very, very wonderful. After communion we sang Silent Night by candle light and I got teary as I gazed upon our little flock on this holy night of light with their faces reflected in the flickering candlelight.
Between our first and second service, I went to C’s service. It was really lovely. Her congregation traditionally shares their appreciation of their pastor on Christmas Eve and it was so wonderful to hear a member of her congregation publicly affirm the gift that they have in her in a very clear and articulate way. The service itself was really sweet. C sang part of her sermon, it was simple and beautiful and it just….worked. A friend in the congregation who is also ordained agreed that we think this is an awesome and wonderful thing to do….and we are not sure we could do it, even though we both sing and perform in our “other lives.”
The day finally ended with present opening with Dear One. It was well into Christmas when I finally got to bed. Today was planned to be simple. A gathering with good friends. Good food, singing and movies, laughter, silliness. A bit complicated by some unexpected snow. But we live in Minnesota. Snow happens! It was a very sweet day.
And now it is Wednesday, and Christmas Day is over for another year. Back to work and the responsibilities and expectations of everyday life. Has anything changed because this day has come and gone? I noticed a theme…there was a lot of talk in all three of the sermons I heard about the light. About noticing the light and remembering that Jesus is the true Light, about being the bearers of that Light to one another, about remembering, as I like to remind myself and others now and again, Who and Whose we are….God’s own, Light’s own, Love's true Light ….the Light that the darkness could not apprehend. So maybe that would be a good thing to take back into the workday world….this light, this Light….it could shine…..