Christmas Eve Preparations
Still, you want to touch hearts. You want to squeeze the guts just a little bit. This year, we're focusing a lot on "Hey, we're here ALL YEAR! Come back NEXT Sunday, too!"
I remember the years before I was at all interested in, or knowledgeable of, the Bible. I would go to church services now and then and it was all absolutely meaningless to me. No one ever suggested to me that if I wanted to get anything out of this, I would actually have to put some intellectual effort into it. Church was like a magical social club -- if you were a member, you'd just "get it," and your heart would be opened by some great priestly abracadabra, and you could sit there with dewy eyes and feel moved by all this archaic language about begating and prophecying and parable-ing and healing lepers or whatever other crazy biz was going down in that day's reading.
I sat there stone cold thinking unkind thoughts about the other worshipers because I assumed that they got as little out of the Bible as I did, little snot that I was, and I figured they were just putting in pew time so they could stay in the club.
I actually believed that the emotions that came from the experience were due to a sense of belonging to the church, not from hearing the readings or sharing the liturgy. I thought they were emotionally involved by virtue of being members of a social club together, not by virtue of belonging to God together and having an opportunity to celebrate and explore and question and struggle with that reality together.
So I look out over those dozens upon dozens of unfamiliar faces on Christmas Eve and I just want to say, "Listen, this Luke and Isaiah and carol stuff is going to mean just NOTHING to you if you don't immerse yourself more often than once a year in this tradition. Not only will the Bible readings for tonight remain pretty meaningless, you will have no community of support for even questioning whether or not you want it to mean anything to you. You will have no community of support and weekly practice to remind you how much you wanted to have a spiritual component to your life, how much you want to stop being angry or feeling helpless or have some balm for whatever other soul sickness you're suffering from. You cannot get a deep religious life with a drive-by once a year service. Please don't lay that pressure on us, and don't set yourself up that way."
Because of course like most preachers, I do feel the pressure of having such a powerful message on Christmas Eve that they will all come back and become beloved and loving members of our church.
I am doing an Angels theme this year. The secret is, I had a huge CONCEPT about it this summer but I failed to write anything down, so now all I have is this vague memory that there was something quite wonderful and creative I wanted to do with the angels in the birth narratives, and it has all slipped through my Swiss cheese brain.