Welcome to worship this day! We find ourselves back to meeting strictly online this Christmas season as this pandemic does not seem to want to end. This service will be streaming live at 4pm on December 24th, and of course can be viewed at any time after that.
The worship bulletin can be found here. The bulletin for Christmas Eve has everything our regular bulletins have, in the order of worship, the words and responses of the liturgy, and the sermon, but it also has all the hymn lyrics as well. I’m not sure why this one is so special, but it’s just always been that way. But as usual, the words you need to know will be on your screen and the sermon is included on this page below the video.
For this Candlelight Service, you can adorn your space with as many candles as you’re comfortable with and as long as you remain safe. You might want to dim the lights to add to the ambiance, and also you might want to save a taper or similar shaped candle for the Hymn of Light, Silent Night, which will happen near the end of the service. Feel free to add any other decor to your space, but again, please be safe about it.
May God’s love and blessing be upon you this season, even as we continue navigating this disruptive pandemic.
Glorious God, in Jesus your grace appears, bringing salvation to us all. Help us to ponder your words and deeds of love by the light of your Spirit, that we be able to proclaim the glad tidings of peace and joy of you among us, with us, and as one of us, through the birth and life and teachings of Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Ugh. Can you believe that we’re back to just online for our worship services? And the timing couldn’t have been any worse. We were so close to celebrating Christmas together, we had all these plans in place, I even had half of my sermon written, and then boom. Our COVID numbers went up like crazy and it drove us back to meeting online. And I know, you might be thinking that it was my choice to have people in the space or not, as our health orders didn’t really say that we couldn’t meet in person, so I shouldn’t really be complaining. But as our dear theologian and comedian Chris Rock once said, “just because we can, don’t make it a good ****ing idea.”
Because with the numbers going up the way they are, our province breaking our daily records like… daily now, and more and more of my friends and acquaintances reporting being exposed to the virus mainly through children has really put the fear in me and wanting to make sure that we here at the church aren’t the cause of any outbreaks or infections. So while we technically can meet in person, I just don’t think it’s a good idea right now, especially since I do have young kids and also live with my somewhat elderly in-laws. Who knows what kind of germy germs we’d be spreading through our breath and whatnot.
Still, it’s disappointing. Christmas Eve is our big service of the year, bigger than Easter for us, and now it’s two years in a row that we can’t celebrate it face to face. We were so close to be getting out of this pandemic and somehow we bounced right back into the thick of things. We were just getting the hang of the new way we do church around here with all the distancing, hand washing, and mask wearing and now we’re back to just staying at home in our pyjamas. Wait, that one isn’t so bad I guess.
But what is bad is the fact that we’re still in pandemic and things are worse now than they ever have been after almost 2 years and a bunch of vaccines and safeguards put in place. What is bad is that our lives are still disrupted and we are getting more and more fed up with it all. What is bad is that we still think and expect that our lives should be better than this.
I mean, we should be allowed to go out with others and hug and embrace and eat together without worry. We should be able to go to the homes of our friends and family or they to ours if we want. We should be able to travel and go places that we have never gone before. But nooooo… instead we’re stuck at home, stuck not in church, stuck in our respective provinces and country because this pandemic, this virus, this whole situation just doesn’t care about our convenience. It doesn’t care about our wants. It doesn’t care about our leisure. And it certainly doesn’t care about our religion.
So what can we do? We can complain, although I don’t think the virus is listening. We can protest, but I still don’t think it cares. We can even deny its existence but we risk putting others in danger if we’re wrong. Or we can make the best of a grim situation and see the joy that could be lurking in the shadows.
Pfft. Joy? Who am I kidding?
But I’m actually serious. I’m not delusional, as much as it might seem like I am. I’m not trying to be offensive, as I know many people have been having a very difficult time with this. And above all, I’m not in any way saying that this pandemic had to happen or is supposed to happen to give us joy. All I am saying is that even when times are tough, even when we aren’t getting what we want, even when our world seems like it’s falling apart, it is possible that God continues to give us joy in spite of it all.
Now, I should say that I’m not just pulling this out of my you-know-what. There is precedence for this notion of joy, which leads me to believe that it remains available for us all. I mean, try being an under-aged, unwed girl who just found out that she was pregnant. Try being a blue collared worker looking forward to his nuptials but learns that his fiancée is “mysteriously” with child. Try being a relatively tired and over worked pastor and father who had to do a bunch of extra work during the kids’ winter break to make sure that this online service could happen with very short notice.
See, we aren’t the only ones in history who has had it bad. We aren’t the only ones in this world who can’t do what we want to do, for some that is a regular everyday thing even outside of pandemic. We aren’t the only ones who have been inconvenienced. But just as Mary and Joseph and even I found joy in the Christ child, so can all of us.
In today’s texts, the same ones we get every year, pandemic or not, we have of course the birth of Jesus as told by Luke, and the thing that caught me this time around was how surprised Mary seems when the shepherds just appear all excitedly. The text says that she is amazed with what they were telling her. She treasured what was said about her son. She pondered those words in her heart.
She pondered them. Meaning she perhaps didn’t have any idea about the situation she found herself in. Sure, that Gabriel angel guy told her what the deal was going to be, but I imagine that would be a tough truth to take. Maybe she didn’t believe the angel. Maybe she thought it was a dream. Maybe she thought if she would just ignore it all that it would go away. But it didn’t. She had to face up to her fiancée. They had to travel some distance even though she was ready to pop. There wasn’t a sanitary place to even rest when it came time for the baby to be born.
But in that smelly barn they ended up in, in that gross inconvenience, in that life changing, world shattering, mind blowingly awful situation, joy was found in a baby born.
Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace among those whom God favours!
Remember, Mary was called the “favoured one” by that very same angel we were talking about. And so Mary ponders these words, she ponders how any of this could be, she ponders the joy that came down in the midst of messiness. She ponders the peace that is granted to her by God in spite of the craziness of her current world. She ponders the love that God has for her, this child, and all those around that God would even be present there with them, in that dirty barn in the middle of the night, during a very busy and crowded census, surrounded by the greed and corruption and inconvenience of the world.
God brings us joy. God grants us peace. God sends down love even in the worst times of our lives, reminding us that even though we can’t always get what we want, even though life isn’t always a bed of roses, even though we are still in this darned pandemic, God is with us.
God is with us through these internet tubes that continue to connect us with each other while we’re apart. God is with us through this season of hope when the world seems hopeless. God is with us through a baby born in the most humble of ways to the most humble of mothers. God is with us and brings us joy, peace, and love.
So yes, this pandemic is inconvenient. This pandemic has had its ups and downs and we are fed up with it. This pandemic just can’t end soon enough and if it were up to us it really should have ended before it even started. But even in the midst of it all, let’s not lose sight of our God who gives us joy. Let’s not lose hope in the God who brings us peace. Let’s not lose faith in the God who entered our world through the birth of Jesus, to walk among us and teach us God’s ways of compassion, grace, and love.
In this Christmas season, may we continue to receive the joy of the Spirit in spite of pandemic as we are granted the peace of God in the inconvenient messiness, through the love of Jesus Christ our Lord, graciously given to us through the miracle of a baby born. Thanks be to God. Amen.