In a half hour I will be driving to church for my last morning of contemplative prayer in the sanctuary. It has been a gift that I gave myself during this season - a daily discipline of time in silence with God. Only one person has been with me regularly - Ruth. And during this time her partner got sick, passed away and we had his funeral. So the mornings of sitting with her through it all - have been so important to both of us. Who knew when this was planned that such a momentous event would happen during these four weeks?
This has been a pretty hard Advent for me as pastor as I have tried to walk with people in some really difficult circumstances. We have watched the deaths of a baby, a 56 year old man and a 99 year old woman. There are folks with financial problems, with issues with children and elderly parents. We have marriages that are going through struggles and of course, all the people with seasonal affective disorder. And also, the shootings in Connecticut that have caused all of us more pain than we know. This is life in the local church, of course, but for some reason, this Advent has seemed just more challenging.
That may be why I did not put up the regular Christmas tree but instead opted for a 4 foot pink tree that Chuck got in a storage unit. I put it on the table in front of the window with silver bulbs on it and have presents piled underneath it. I think it is different and quirky - Marnie said it was pathetic. Anyway, my mantra during this season has been that I have been "getting it done." And I have - Cards mailed, sermons written, services planned. And now it is Christmas Eve.
I cannot help but think about other Christmas Eves when I was a child and even a young mother and there was so much more excitement about it all. Today, I will pray with Ruth, plan Christmas Eve service, write the homily and look forward to a quiet Christmas.
But actually, as I write this, I hope for more tonight. Planning Christmas Eve worship is always a puzzle and a mystery. We want to hear "the story" and at the same time we need to hear it in a new way in order for the good news to break through our complacency about it all. Or maybe I am speaking for myself after 20 plus years of planning Christmas Eve services.
All I know is that I want this service to bring a sense of hope and peace and especially joy to all of us. This really is about the light in the darkness and the hope of new life - no matter when in our lives.
My prayer for this day is that I will be open to God's creative spirit and that tonight transcends all of our efforts and we really can experience "Emmanuel" - God with us.
We need that. I need that.