'Twas the week before Christmas, when all through the congregation this minister was rushing to fulfill her vocation. The greenery was rung 'round the sanctuary with care, in hopes that regulars and visitors soon would be there. The figures were placed just so in the nativity, waiting to add Jesus with Mary's natal activities. The choir director in a tizzy, and I having sermon writer's block, were praying our health would hold out 'till we'd sung "Silent Night" with our flock. When from the copy room there arose such a clatter, I sprang from my desk chair to see what was the matter. Away to the Xerox I flew like a flash, dismantled the paper tray and pulled out the trash. The machine had eaten all the Christmas Eve bulletins and left me with confetti to distribute to everyone. Little did I know that this was only the first mess that would cause me no end of holiday stress: The glow sticks I had purchased to hand out to kids had been backordered because so many churches put in bids. My nursery workers were bailing, wanting to be in the pews, meaning parents would have to juggle their hymnals and babies until the service was through. Grieving members needed extra care as they recalled Christmas memories, and suddenly I was unsure where to focus my flagging energy. A water main broke and half our parking lot was a geyser, and I wondered if I could just hide under my bed covers, no one the wiser. Strong Mary! Doting Joseph! Smelly shepherds and sheep! Sweet-singing angels and gift-bearing wise men coming to watch the baby sleep! To Bethlehem proper, to that small, crowded stall, now come quickly! Come quickly! Come quickly, all! Time speeded up as the 24th drew nearer, and when was I supposed to shop for my family? That was no clearer. So to Amazon I went several nights, grateful for Prime, and shopped till my clock warned me it was nearly daytime. And then Christmas Eve came. It was showtime. I said a prayer that the worshippers would experience something sublime. As I climbed into the pulpit, white stole 'round my neck, I glanced toward the AV booth and gave a nod to the tech. Suddenly, I saw the faces. People smiling, expecting a Savior, glad to be snuggled together, on their best behavior. They were dressed in red and green, a few even in bells. They looked toward the creche, where God in flesh now dwelled. The music - how it filled me! The harmonization, how inspiring! The readings reminded me that I should be among those admiring. Communion brought us together with both future and past, Silence drew me into God's promise to be with us to the last. I then remembered that whatever did or didn't go right, the darkness would be pierced by Christ's growing light. Illumined by candles, the sanctuary filled with hope, and my heart beating gratefully, I scurried back up from the end of my rope. God's love had been born anew, not just for me, but for all: good guys and bad guys, the worried and ill; the lonely, the wanting, the broken, and the raging, the hopeless, the imprisoned, the young, and the aging. We all filed out when worship was done, Some to full, busy houses and some to a table of one. I headed home to pour a big glass of wine and to collapse on the couch, a hard-earned rest finally mine. But as I drifted off to sleep, too tired even to remove my shoes, I gave thanks not only for the holiday's good news, but also for the privilege of witnessing to God's world being made aright. Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night.
Poem inspired by “A Visit from St. Nicholas” by Clement Clarke Moore.