Raised in a musically-inclined, church-going family has placed me amidst Christmas music and Christmas Services my entire life. I've experienced it all. From tiny church programs as full of sincerity as they were short on talent, to huge extravaganzas full of talent and seemingly full of pride as well, and everything in-between. I've enjoyed most of them, some very very much. There are many ways to tell the Story of Christmas.
But last night, ah, last night I experienced something different for me, something deep, true, transcendent.
Was it helping to festively decorate the rented church where our little band of Jesus Followers meets?
Was it new and old friends dressed in Christmas cheer, relaxed, happy, together?
Was it sweet children at the microphone perfectly reciting Bible passages?
Was it the small but excellent adult choir, short on practice time but, oh, so long on beautiful talent, precision, volume, and heart? A cappella! Better than any big-church choir - with or without full orchestra - I've ever heard! Perfect and goose-bump producing. Heart-massaging music. Bravo!
Was it Jack Crabtree's insightful reflections on the Christmas Season, resonating with my own heart, giving me not only affirmation of thoughts recently mulled, but more wisdom and truth to ponder? How I love to ponder the things of God, especially during this pensive time of year!
Was it Andrew Robinson leading congregational Christmas Carols with his enthusiastically strong/mellow voice and confident guitar playing, accompanied by Kris Campbell's smooth violin?
Was it the well-prepared - and adorable! - Children's Choir imploring us to Go, Tell It On the Mountain, and asking us to stand and join the chorus at the very end?
Was it Bob Blanchard's eagerness as he invited all to the Fellowship Hall for the Soup and Bread meal provided afterwards?
Was it overflowing joy in the form of salty tears sending me to the Ladies' Room in order to 'gather myself' before dining, only to find two other women similarly teary-eyed and 'gathering'? Hugs!!
Was it the aroma of fresh bread and three flavors of hot soup, of chilled raw veggies, and steaming hot pots of coffee? Was it the endless stretch of colorful desserts prepared and shared by our families?
Was it the merriment at the long tables decorated with white-cloths, evergreen garlands, berries, sugar-pine cones, and flickering crystal votives? The laughter, the conversations, the heartfelt sharing of harder parts of life, the understanding, consoling, cheer, sympathy, and empathy?
Was it verbal and physical hugs from friends old and new?
Was it the soft touch and fresh, clean smell of three-month old baby twins' heads?
Was it promises to get together to 'just chill' after holidays greeted with YES!?
Was it satisfied afterglow chattings while clean-up was underway?
Was it the invitations to friends to continue discussions at our home, the friends who followed us to stand before our tall Christmas Tree and pick out a candy cane before more hilarity as well as deep talks ensued, the kids in one room for a Christmas movie and energetic companionship, the adults in another room, palms around hot mugs of Jasmine tea, reflecting on Jack's words and more?
It was all of those things for each and all are simply...
While love has been experienced at other Christmas church services, last night was purer, somehow. Maybe my heart is more tender after a difficult year. Maybe it's my effort to make new friends rather than wait for them to come to me. Maybe it's the old and new combined, making a richer tapestry. Maybe it's spiritual growth, absorbing more meaning than before. Probably it is all of these. Definitely the experience was needed and is received with gratitude.
May our God - who is Love - make Himself known to you in small and large ways, and may your Home be a Safe and Trusting place now and in the future.