Merry Christmas Eve to you all on this wet and rainy afternoon! I wonder what you are all doing today. Do you find yourself doing Christmas activities, or is this just a normal day, like all the others?
If you’d like, you are invited to tune in to our Christmas Eve service starting at 7pm. You can find it on our church’s Facebook page– just like all of our worship services. Or, it will be available to watch on our church’s webpage.
Keilor Kastella is playing both organ and piano from the sanctuary for tonight’s service. This is the first time we will be trying to add the organ into our recordings, and we’re not sure how the sound quality is going to be. If it’s disappointing, don’t be dismayed. This is our first try at it, and every week from hereafter we will have the chance to make adjustments.
Ranota Hewitson was supposed to sing “Silent Night” for us at the end of the recording of the service, but she had an emergency and had to leave in the middle of our recording time– before it was time for her to sing. Thankfully, we still have Keilor’s beautiful instrumental version of “Silent Night” in the service, and what’s more, Keilor, Ranota, and Renee (our wonderful tech person) all met up later to make a second recording of “Silent Night,” with Ranota singing. You should be able to find this recording in the comment section of the Facebook post containing the service.
Do you remember how clunky our first online services were, when we were first trying to figure out how to set them up? Now that we are changing the location of the music part of our services to the sanctuary with Keilor, I need to ask you to stretch your graciousness out again and be willing to adopt a little more change. When Gui and Feryal were our music leaders, we had the luxury of having a singer who lived in the same “germ pod” as the piano player. This meant that we had a song leader to carry the tune for us, as we sing along or listen at home. But this, my dear hearts, is something else that we are going to have to give up for a little while. Ranota will be singing Silent Night for us tonight, but after that, Session has decided that it’s taking too great of a risk to have someone sing along with Keilor as he plays the piano. The Covid numbers in our county are skyrocketing at the moment and singing is a high-risk activity, and it’s not worth exposing any of us to serious illness or death. So, for the time being, we will listen to the hymns instrumentally– until a time comes when it is safe for singing.
This decision was not one that session came to easily. Having someone to sing our hymns each week is important, and it feels like a real loss to have to let this go for right now. But someone on session came up with a creative alternative. Starting next week, at the end of my emails, I will include links to recordings of choirs singing the hymns that will be played instrumentally in the upcoming worship service. That way, if you want to sing along with the choir at some point during the week, you will be able to.
Oh friends, this is such a difficult thing we are doing. The pandemic affects our lives in major, upsetting ways, but it also changes so many of the small things– like having a song leader for our hymns. And sometimes, the small things are harder to deal with than the big things. Often, we’re able to prepare ourselves for those big shifts, but the little things we don’t see coming– they sneak up on us without warning, and hit us where we’re not expecting.
I suspect that you will run into more of these small losses tomorrow on Christmas, when our usual traditions have been set on the sidelines. Please be willing to honor that tomorrow might be a tough day, and give yourself some space to grieve.
On the flip side of that grief, you can also give yourself permission to take delight in something else that you might not have ever thought to try for Christmas day. I have a friend who is going through cancer treatment right now, and it is too risky for her to be around any of her family, so she will be spending Christmas alone in her house. Rather than cry over this loss for the whole day, she has decided to imagine that her little house has magically turned into a retreat house for writers, and plans to spend her day writing letters to her grown-up children. The letters will include telling her kids special stories she remembers from when each of them were growing up, and all the things she loves and appreciates about each of them now that they are grown.
Friends, it is possible to turn lemons into lemonade. We just have to put on our creative thinking hats, and imagine what is possible out there beyond the boundaries we have always lived with. What beautiful, lovely thing might happen in your life, if you opened yourselves up to the possibilities?!
Whatever, and however, your day turns out to be tomorrow, I pray that you know that you are loved by God and your whole church family.
And may the grace and peace of Christ rest upon you now and always!
Resting in God’s great love,