Christmas Day Reflections

Brendan and Rachel made it in time to start the ten o'clock Christmas Eve service by lighting the Christ Candle with Amy and me.  Brendan has been in other night-before-Christmas services as a child in the pageant and as a worship band leader. But this time he was my son, reading John 1 with a deep man's voice reading with his wife. I'm proud, grateful, happy and honored to introduce my family and share this service with them, as we did with Connor and Sherianne last year. 

Christmas Eve is an odd night for pastors. We lead others in worship, singing familiar carols, listening to God's word, bringing a new twist to an old story, being a part of the church-family on this special night before they spend time with their families opening gifts and sharing a meal. Five services in the afternoon and evening don't allow for much my-family time on Christmas Eve.

Don't get me wrong; there's no place I'd rather be this night. I'm filled with awe and joy as I see children, grandparents, extended family and friends swell our congregation double. I love the looks of anticipation and expectation for a blessing, a surprise, a visit from God. I love meeting guests and sharing their joy at being together. 

I have the privilege of preaching God's word to those who have heard it a thousand times, and for those who are hearing it for the first time. It was meaningful to me to connect the dots between Van Gogh's Starry Night, Hugo's Les Miserable and John's prologue of light and life. But sitting next to my family at this service is special. The first Christmas for my son as husband and first for Amy and I as parents to Rachel. 

The next day, after opening stockings, eating blueberry wholewheat pancakes, eggs and bacon, and before starting the lasagna that wouldn't be eaten until nine, we sat together again to watch Les Miserables. I sat mesmerized for the full two and a half hours listening to the songs we heard sung on Broadway now sung on the screen by actors I didn't know could sing. 

The film version brings out the emotion and pain the musical cannot. I cried first just a few minutes into the movie and then off and on till the end. Pain, redemption, hope, courage, identity, forgiveness are all Hugo's themes that touch our hearts with a gospel impact. I want Valjean's sacrificial love, Javier's integrity, Fantine's commitment, Marius' idealism and Cosette's love; and I want to stand on the barricade of a heaven and look forward to a new world where all things are made new. 

As if that were not enough, the Christmas sunset went from blue and pink beautiful to orange and red amazing.
Christmas was ride of surprising emotion and shared experience. (And the lasagna was very good.)


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