Waiting & Worshiping Together this Christmas
Our Advent waiting this year feels much more poignant, or urgent, or in-our-face than usual.
We’re waiting for Jesus to come – in Bethlehem, in our Christmas celebrations, yes – and also, most importantly, in the promised time to come. This season is designed to train Christians to keep watch, wait, and prepare the way for Christ Jesus to return again to establish his kingdom on Earth as it is in heaven. This we do every year.
But we know that this year is different. In 2020 more than during most Advent seasons, we know a thing or two about waiting. We’re waiting for a vaccine. We’re waiting for an end to the madness of our pandemic disruptions and discord. We’re waiting for loved ones in ICUs to heal and for loved ones in hospice care to be at peace. We’re waiting for school and work to return to normal. We’re waiting in 14-day quarantine after being exposed or testing positive ourselves. We’re waiting to hug family members and see each other’s smiles underneath those masks. We’re waiting.
And, we’re waiting to return to worship in our little blue church building, too.
Oh, the waiting. Like a kid on Christmas Eve waiting for Santa’s sleigh to come to a stop on her roof, we’re waiting with an eager and enthusiastic urgency. But also like an exhausted mom who has been rocking her feverish child for hours upon hours throughout a fitful night trying to lull him to sleep, we’re made weary by all this waiting.
A few months ago the Board and I tried to figure out a way for us to meet in person for Christmas. We looked into renting a larger space for Christmas worship, where we could maintain our distance but still gather together. Ultimately, as infection numbers continued to rise and stories of churches, weddings, and funerals serving as super spreader events were shared in the news and among my pastoral colleagues, we decided to call off our planning for an indoor Christmas event.
We didn’t make this decision lightly, or in a vacuum. Most of our fellow Lutheran congregations – especially those with smaller spaces – are not meeting in person. The bishop has strongly urged all congregations in the synod not to gather in person for worship. It’s terribly disappointing for all of us.
This Christmas will be a different kind of Christmas. Fewer of us will be traveling. The big extended family dinners may not be happening. We’ll get creative with Zoom and Facetime, and connect in a different way this year.
For worship, we’ll be at home – singing carols in our living rooms in front of our smart televisions or in our comfy chair looking on our phone. We’ll light candles at home as we sing Silent Night together across the wifi signals. We’ll receive the body and blood of Christ in the timeless feast that knows no bounds not at the altar but in our homes. And some of you may be at work, caring for the sick or working retail for last minute shoppers. Tune in live, catch it in your break room, or join for worship online later after your shift has ended.
However you will worship this Christmas Eve, please know this truth: Christ has come to bless you and this world that God so loves. The same Spirit that moved among shepherds and magi to draw them to Jesus moves through us now in our pandemic distanced worship. We won’t come together in a building this season, but we will come together in Spirit and Truth to worship Christ our newborn king.
Be blessed, beloved in Christ. Christ our Savior is born! And in this little child the hope of the world’s transformation – and of our salvation – is made known.
I’ll see you at church.
Christmas Eve Worship will be posted on YouTube at 5pm and again at 7:30pm as a live “premiere” event (as we did back in the spring). Gather online at one of those times to enjoy the live chat and real-time connection with other worshipers. If those times are not good for you, click on the link sometime later and worship at a time that works best for you. Peace!