This Week at Trinity, Beamsville
Christmas Eve, 2021
This week I’ve been thinking back to a day in mid-October. It feels like a thousand years ago now. I’ve been thinking about those creative days of dreaming about Advent and beyond. Hard as it can be sometimes, to work a season or two ahead, there is a deep spiritual pull in that process. It keeps my eyes looking up and out, to a time promised but not yet known.
Perhaps it was that grace-filled pull, but this season’s worship plans were also influenced, I’m sure, by the waves of pandemic weariness. My heart resisted slipping into lament once more, of naming what is and was. I clung tightly to the future-focused promises of God, voiced by the ancient prophets so often overlooked in Advent. I took extra inspiration from a beautiful children’s book and cheekily suggested to the planning team that this year was a holy call to celebrate ‘the best worst Christmas ever’… and so the seasonal theme began.
At the time, I naively thought the worst of the waves were behind us. I underestimated how this theme of celebrating Christmas, in spite of it all, would bear down once again. Maybe I was so drawn into naming the future that I overlooked the present, leaving this latest round of gathering restrictions, plan alterations, and genuine consternations to land with a resounding thud. For all of my looking ahead, I’m aware now how much I’d been resting in the shadows of present fear. Bound in some interwoven reasons, the prospect of having ‘one last Christmas’ was driving so much of my planning, especially at home. I wanted everything to be just right, remembering how much felt wrong this time last year, and worrying that this time next year will look radically different again. To my heart’s detriment, I zeroed in on one day, one moment. Don’t misunderstand: I believe each singular space is to be cherished, and never taken for granted. However, there is a fine balance in marking time: the art of holding still while trusting there will be a signal to move forward.
And so it was that I woke up this morning, thinking about all that I’d drafted for this seasonal missive, realizing how outdated it suddenly felt, and wondering what on earth I should say instead. I started thinking about countless families, ours included, where plans for that looming last Christmas are truly upended. I started thinking about countless other families, with worst-case scenarios writ large, and quietly pressing through. I started thinking about more families again, with little ones giggling and grasping, cradled and held with love beyond words… living into their first Christmas; and that is where my heart started to tilt toward balance. Somewhere in there, in all of those places and more, is God’s precious truth that no matter where we are, in body, mind and spirit, we are cradled and held, too. Christmas is marked on a particular day of the year. That is how it is. But Christmas is given, Christmas can be honoured, and Christmas will be lived every moment you receive breath; every moment you choose love. God Love has chosen you, all over again, as if for the very first time. For this gift, there is no more waiting. There is only unwrapped promise, of all that is still to be.
Merry Christmas my beloved friends. Blessed and Merry Christmas, always.
“Sing out, my soul, the wonder…”
(Katherine Paterson, ‘The Night of His Birth’)