Christmas is around the corner and whether you are spending it alone, with a spouse, or within a quarantine bubble, I wanted to make sure to provide plenty of spaces for prayer, singing, lament, and fellowship throughout the week.
Monday, December 21 is the winter solstice–the longest night of the year. I will be leading Peoples’ third Longest Night service, along with Mary and Doris. Both of our previous Longest Night services have been very small, which made them beautiful and intimate. In most years, I would hope that only a few Peoples would need a space within the holiday season to set down their heavy feelings without feeling pressured to “get in the Christmas spirit.” But of course, this year is not most years, and this holiday season will be difficult for most of us. So on the longest night of the year, you might consider joining us for a quiet service of scripture, silent reflection, prayer, and music as we take time in the middle of this bizarre holiday season to acknowledge that even though we may want to celebrate, many of us are grieving. Whether you are grieving the loss of a loved one, the physical absence of family, the inability to gather in person with your church or community, or anything else, you are welcome to join us in the darkness of the longest night as we find solidarity in a God who also grieves.
Tuesday, December 22 will conclude my informal series on the history of Christmas, which has seen many changes since its first celebration in 336, to the banning of Christmas celebrations across Europe and America when it had become more of an excuse for drunken revels than a commemoration of God putting on flesh and coming to live among us, to the innovations of Charles Dickens and Queen Victoria, and finally, to the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. Gingersnap will (probably) co-host and it is entirely likely that I will gush about Bing Crosby and give some hot takes (like when I came down hard against raisins in cookies, compared Oliver Cromwell to the White Witch of Narnia, and declared penguins to be the best bird) (penguins ARE the best bird, though).
Wednesday, December 23 is “Christmas Eve Eve” and was also, fun fact, the day my grandparents got married in 1951. I am putting together a program for the senior center with scripture, music, and a message. If you’d like to watch me share the Christmas story with my cat, you can register (the event is free), you can do that at https://milanseniors.org/register/. Later in the day, I will be holding evening prayer, as I have on almost every Wednesday since March 18.
Thursday, December 24 is Christmas Eve. We won’t be gathering in our sanctuary around poinsettias and candles, but I encourage you to find a way to create a special place in your home to watch the service, whether that means lighting a candle (or several), sitting next to a Christmas tree with a mug of hot cocoa, or surrounding your computer with nativity figures. Chad and Doris will be leading the service with me, although it is possible that I might be acquiring an additional leader (stay tuned!!!). This Christmas will be unlike any that we have ever known, but Christ will still come into the world to be with us and we will still share the Word of God, pray together, and rejoice in singing. So come, all ye faithful, even if we can’t come together in person, and join us this Christmas Eve as we gather to adore the one who is Christ the Lord.
Friday, December 25 is Christmas Day. I don’t believe that Peoples has ever had a service on Christmas Day (except for the years when it has fallen on a Sunday). Many churches celebrate on the 24th because of an ancient understanding that the new day begins at sunset (rather than midnight or sunrise) and leave the 25th for personal celebrations. Christmas Day is very often a boisterous and busy one when families are able to gather together, but since travel is heavily discouraged during global pandemics, I thought that we could could take our subdued (and possibly lonely) Christmases as an opportunity to come together in spirit to celebrate Christmas Day in a fun and casual evening service with scripture, carols, and prayers. Once the stockings have been emptied, the presents have been unwrapped, and the zoom calls with family have ended, even if you are spending Christmas by yourself, you might consider joining us as we remember that Jesus Christ is Emmanuel–God with us. We are never alone, because God is with us.
There is information about all of these services on our website, peoplespresbyterian.org, on the “Events” page. There are also official Facebook events on our Facebook page, so that you can easily share them to your personal pages or invite friends and family members directly.