We had a combined Christmas Eve/Christmas Day Service of Lighting Advent Candles and Lessons and Carols this evening in church. We were discussed the impending bad winter storm headed our way and decided to try to get ahead of it by holding the service on the 23rd instead of waiting for the 24th. The service was nice and the attendance was ok. We had 25 there including me and the piano player. It was nice. My sister Kathy and Aunt Glenda and sister Melissa and niece Elisabeth also came. It was really nice to see them all sitting together with James and Paulina and singing the carols as a group. I only wish that I had taken an extra glass of water with me to the pulpit. My throat was really dry by the time I finished with the readings and the short message on the passage about Joseph in Matthew chapter one.
I followed the recommended nine sections of lessons. In order to give the pianist a break I put an offering after lesson 4 and did a little message after lesson 5. We were singing the song on lesson 2 when I realized that I had forgotten to print out my message and that I didn’t have the prayer for the offering. Well, I found the prayer in the booklet with the invocation that I had to go hunt up during the Advent song. Good grief talk about unorganized. Fortunately I had the message in my head because I had used that scripture lesson at the Health Care Center on Wednesday. That was really an amazing day, but I will share that later.
The passage in Matthew is about how Joseph is considering his options when he realizes that Mary, his betrothed is with child and it is for sure not his child. He basically has some options. He can make a big public deal about it and could have her judge for her infidelity and she could be stoned for it. He wasn’t really interested in that, but had sort of settled on his second option which was to put her aside, basically divorce her. She would not be judged or stoned, but she would end up being shamed for the rest of her life because of having a child without a husband. She would likely end up as a servant or worse for the rest of her life with no chance of being a wife let alone an honorable woman. His last option was to accept her as she was, but he would probably be ridiculed or talked about for that. Well the visit by the angel convinced him that he needed to take her as a wife and be a real father to that baby.
On Wednesday at the Health Care Center it was a service of all women in attendance, and I mentioned that most of the time we center the Christmas stories on the passages from the book of Luke and we concentrate on Mary and the baby in the manger and the angels announcing it to the shepherds and all, but tonight I talked about Joseph. He was that loving man, that carpenter who was just looking for a woman to be his wife and the mother of his children. Instead he is struck with a child that isn’t his, and if he is to believe this angel coming into his dreams, this child is the Son of God.
First he needed to resolve that the dream was not some piece of his imagination or as Dickens had Scrooge say in A Christmas Carol just a bit of indigestion from something bad he ate that caused these weird thoughts. But Joseph was a God loving man, and eventually he realized that he was chosen for a very difficult task, but he was the one who would give God’s Son the heritage of being descended from King David, and he would be the one to raise Jesus in the correct way, and in a safe way. What love he had for God and for Mary and finally for Jesus. What an amazing man to accept that task.
We closed the service as we always do on Christmas Eve, we turned down the lights, sang Silent Night starting out with a verse in German and then finishing it in English as we passed candle light from one to another. I take the light from the Christ candle and walk down the center aisle lighting the candle of the first person in each pew. Tonight I remembered reading something about how when one candle lights another it takes nothing away from the first candle, and I mentioned that is how it is when we let out lights shine in the world, it just makes everything brighter. Hopefully people were able to leave with some sort of blessing.
At the end of the evening, it felt so good, so free to be able to just do the service without the scripts to follow and all the pre-organized paperwork. It also feels so great to know that tomorrow we will be able to relax and enjoy the time together at home waiting for the arrival of that crazy winter storm. The joke will certainly be on us if it dissipates or turns and heads in another direction, and we have held church early and cancelled the other services for naught. Oh well, I thought we had a special time. We also handed out little bags of goodies to everyone who came. It is supposed to be a reminder of what it was like to come to church in the olden days when every small child or elderly person received a bag of treats.
So, Merry Christmas to all of you, and remember why we celebrate this holiday!