Every year since the year 2000, I've preached on Christmas morning. This year I stayed home and the silence of it was breathtakingly beautiful. No rushing, no music, no message. Just silence.
The night before we'd sung "Silent Night" and the congregation had held candles as the ushers turned off the lights; as soon as the hymn was over, they turned the lights on again. I found myself thinking, "What was the point of that?" Tradition, I guess. But people didn't seem to know if it was all right to blow out the candles. I blew mine out. Why leave it lit?
I was sorry Christmas Eve wasn't more magical. There was no incense. There was no cope. In fact, there was nothing unusual about the service at all, except that it was at night. And there was a moment with a candle. But very soon after the service started, I realized "this is just a garden-variety eucharist," and I was instantly bored. I knew that I would be there for about an hour and 15 minutes. I knew I would wade through the sermon and let my mind wander. I knew I would receive communion. And then it would be done.
So I did Christmas Eve. Like I was supposed to.
A couple of days earlier, I'd seen an article in the Telegraph in which the writer reflected on a couple of funerals he had attended. At the end, he related the story of the 7th Earl of Yarborough who "at his village carol service, he read the lesson about the shepherds deserting their flocks to see the baby in Bethlehem. “I’d just like to say,” he told the startled congregation, “that if these men had been my shepherds, I’d have sacked them.”" What it made me think was how going to pay homage to the Christ child is a deeply irresponsible act. And how hard we all try--perhaps at Christmas especially--to be so very responsible. But that maybe God is not calling us to act responsibly.
I made myself some French toast. I had some tea. I didn't do much of anything. And it was lovely.