It’s Christmas Eve, After All

It’s Christmas Eve. 5:24, to be exact. I am sitting on my little red chair beside the organ at Zion Lutheran Church. A break in the service as a sermon is about to begin.

No worries. I have two more services tonight to catch up with the Pastor’s message. Already, I have almost missed the third verse of our Hymn of the Day. This is my first service back after a week of miserable covid isolation and stress. To have been nearly absent-minded over a few lyrics is, I feel, a passable offense … considering.

It’s almost Christmas, after all.

The church is full. For once this year, our pews are relatively packed. Normally on a Saturday service, Santa and his reindeer could comfortably slide to rest in between any two people. Families I’ve never seen are happily filling in the spaces between beautiful stained glass windows. I cannot see empty diagonal lines from front to back.

It’s almost Christmas, after all.

I don’t know what our Pastor is talking about right now. If his message has anything to do with the gospel lesson, John is involved. There’s an ocean of red pedals in my line of sight, but no magnificent colors being painted by the sun through those wonderful stained glass windows. They are dark. The sun sets early these days.

It’s almost Christmas, after all.

Bitter cold embraces everyone’s outside breath. A cold spell came through yesterday which I thought would have dampened attendance this evening. The once-a-year faithful still crunched their way in, however, to see the decorated altar … and, possibly, to be seen by their peers. I recognize so very few from my perch up front. This is not to cast judgement upon anyone. Perhaps if I wasn’t providing a needed musical service, I would be the same on a very cold, bitter Saturday evening … 5 hours before this most celebrated Christian holiday of the year.

It’s almost Christmas, after all.

Of all the candles lit, only one solitary taper can be seen from my corner settlement. It’s a view so familiar to many a generation of organists who have graced this ornamented chair upon which I sit.

The Pastor’s message is leaning into a lonely shepherd. I am listening now – the second service of three this evening. I see one candle, yet there are many I know on the altar I cannot see, but are there. I see less friends here than before, but I know other friends are, possibly, holding their candles brightly at other places of worship. They are being shepherded in different ways.

It’s almost Christmas, after all.

It’s not just this moment. Many times I’ve heard, “… the presents are wrapped and trees are glistening with bulbs and tapestries of all shapes and colors.” Joy and merriment, as expected, has been seen in the eyes of children. Adults have been about meeting at coffee shops and restaurants – exchanging holiday smiles and hugs – discussing family plans and holiday hams. Packages have arrived from around the globe. Air tubes carrying passengers have flown millions of miles to destinations where anxious travelers finally embrace loved ones in crowded airports.

It’s almost Christmas, after all.

… and does any of this really matter?

I have no presents wrapped. No trees are decorated. Very few, if any, relatives are around anymore. The few I have here – daily – struggle with life in their own way. Distances, not measured by miles, separate us. Life is, well, life.

… and does this matter? YES! It’s almost Christmas, after all, and to what extent this holiday presents itself to any of us … it STILL matters.

It’s a reason to recognize what we DO have. Maybe not necessarily what we want or need, but simply what we have. Seems simple enough.

Strip away all the glitter and wrapping of the season. And yes, I dare say the “Reason for the Season”, platitudes so evident all over digital media these days. All the sappy gospel songs need to be shelved for a small period of time to sit and think. Reflect. Admire all we have. If it’s only a breath to get from one moment to another – that’s a thing.

Life seems more real this way … at least for now: an almost Christmas, 2022.

I have a third service to play. Tomorrow is, yes, Christmas. I will go out to eat with some friends and family. That’ll be a thing to celebrate.

There are always nuggets like these to have in our pockets. Memories to gather. Experiences to share with friends and family. Wrapping paper fades and trees are stored 11 months out of the year. “Wham!” will, of course, continue to torture us with, “Last Christmas”, until our collective ears bleed … this is unavoidable. What shouldn’t be missed are all the little, fun, memorable times we can tuck away to remember all year ’round.

So, tonight IS a time to remember, reflect, and recall all the special moments we have in our lives.

It’s almost Christmas, after all. Let’s unwrap tomorrow with all it’s present magic.

For now, Pastor Dave just started his third version of that same sermon. I am here, again, for one last time. Ornaments, the Christmas tree, … I’m finally listening to the whole message. The ugly tree ornaments. The shepherds, marginalized, were like those ugly ornaments hidden on the back of the Christmas tree. The gospel writer Luke, however, writes positively about shepherds. They are lifted up. Hope among the lowly, as it were. This is the message for this Christmas eve.

Thank you for being here. Today and tomorrow matter. Always. Christmas or not, days are special, after all.

Because every moment matters, look for the unseen candles in your life.

…and Merry Christmas, anyway.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s