Creche Outside St. Augustine's Manor

It’s Christmas morning, and I’m more relaxed than I have been in weeks.  Ahhhhhhh….!  Perhaps I take this Advent/Christmas stuff far too seriously.  I know, from the consistent reassurances of my congregation, leadership, and staff, I clearly give off vibes that this holiday church life is *serious* business and *tough* work.  It’s humorously sad when a pastor’s congregation has to tell it’s pastor to “lighten up” during what is supposed to be one of the most joyful seasons of the year!  Alas, where is that “non-anxious presence” I’m supposed to offer my flock?!  😉

But in my defense, being a pastor is such a mixed bag (that’s an understatement), especially  when it comes to holidays.  Expectations come at us from all angles, and the holiday urgency is real for almost everyone in and beyond the church walls.  In some sense, we pastors are probably as much like corporate party planners as we are clergy.  The weight (maybe that should read “responsibility” or “calling”) of helping a community craft just the right experience for Christmas Eve is one I take seriously.  This became clear to me when one of my beloved parishioners called me on the phone this week and learned that the early service, to which her entire family was coming, would not have the traditional candlelight communion service.  That would be in the 7 p.m. service, and we were doing something different (fun, we hoped) in the earlier service.  I could hear in her voice that she was crestfallen.  My party planning credentials were tarnished.

And, as is my signature Christmas Eve move, our/my creativity in planning Christmas Eve worship was far out ahead of our/my ability to complete those creative plans!  How many Christmas Eves (yesterday, included) involved spending a healthy chunk of the day madly doing something or another that would make this Christmas just a little more wonderful, unique, memorable, meaningful?!  I never want to see a small mylar star balloon on a stick ever again!  Okay, well maybe not “never,” but you get my drift.  And simply telling me to “DELEGATE” doesn’t do it for me, because I am the consummate pastor, knowing (thinking I know?) my parishioners multiplicity of commitments/limitations/issues/gifts/time-contraints/and burnout levels.  Hmmmm… do I calculate that for myself, too?  Somehow… I’ve got to get *that* balance figured out.

In any case, and this has *got* to be a shut-and-closed case for the reality of the Holy Spirit, something magical does and did happen.  Was every person’s Christmas Eve Worship dreams fulfilled?  Nah… not likely.  Did things go better than I had feared, actually wonderfully well?  Yeah.  Definitely.  It’s amazing, as one of my Facebook colleagues noted, that darn Jesus gets born each year regardless of my planning skills and holiday preparations!  That, in the end, is always my Christmas Gift as a pastor: the gentle, but overwhelmingly obvious, realization that no matter my mood, my lack of planning or ability to make creative ideas a reality, or even if I say anything even remotely inspirational in my sermon, “[I] hadn’t stopped Christmas from coming, it came! Somehow or other, it came just the same.”  (Thanks, Allen F. for the Grinch quote!)

So, now to enjoy the day and a week off.  Ahhhh….

Merry Christmas, one and all.