Christmas Then, Christmas Now
December 17, 2015, 3:15 PM

This year, even though Christmas Eve is, strictly speaking, still Advent (every liturgical calendar will back me up on this), I do recognize your desire for Christmas to arrive even just a few hours earlier, so we will be singing Christmas Carols at the 5:00 service. 

Yet in my head is this image:
Back in the day (a day I begin to wonder if I even remember personally), church-goers would attend church on Christmas Day, between the stockings that were hung on the chimney with care, and Christmas dinner – after which, the presents would be opened. 

By that time, naturally, the kids were practically bouncing off the walls with impatience and excitement.  Die-hard Jesus fans would also come to a late-night vigil service, and sit through several Scripture readings that trace the providence of God throughout the ages, with everything perfectly timed so at the stroke of midnight, just as the transition from the Liturgy of the Word to the Liturgy of the Table took place, the lights would come up and everyone would break into a audacious rendition of Joy to the World

Of course, the hangings and vestments would magically turn from purple to white, and the brass would break forth with bright tones and descants and everybody would start smiling, and then sing Silent Night after communion, and go home wreathed in smiles for a late glass of punch or eggnog, and the children would fall asleep in the carriage on the way home…  Oh, and it would be snowing.

I mean, every movie ever made about Christmas used to have this scenario.

We’re a small church.  We don’t do that.  It’s taken me a while to accept it.

But one of the ‘things” about that Christmas imagery is that patience almost beyond human endurance was not only required, but expected.

I do remember being a child and having to wait, fit to burst, for Christmas morning to arrive before the stocking could be unpacked, and waiting for the cousins to arrive while the turkey cooked in the oven for hours, and pleading to open even just one of the presents under the tree before dinner.  If the weather permitted, we would go out for a walk after the meal, (because we ate far too much, and before desert – and finally, the presents, and after that, desert and the adults catching up on the latest family news and telling stories of years past.

These are good memories, and good dreams, but as we make new ones, let’s not forget the Christ child whose birth brings hope to the world, even to this one.