Today at our worship gathering I experienced an array of emotions:
- Happiness at seeing so many wonderful folks gathered to praise and worship together, especially as I watched four grownups try to squish onto a three-person pew – they really like each other.
- Sappy sentimentality as I looked at how the sanctuary is garbed in gorgeously simple Christmas attire.
- Anticipation at the thought of being with a larger community as we gather for the Christmas Eve Candlelight Service, which for the first time ever will be only with my newly immediate family – Jason, Judah, and I. Many folks donít have a chance to celebrate Christmas with their nuclear family: a barrage of extended family obligations pull them in scurried directions. Iím so happy to celebrate with my extended family, but Iím also eager to worship with my larger worship gathering and area community with my boys.
- An ache for more silence during service. Instead of my usual looking-around-at-everyone-in-the-sanctuary followed by analyzing-the-attire-and-hairstyles-and-facial-expressions-of-all-the-worship-leaders, I sat staring at a wall, thinking about why we were gathered, soaking in the sounds of the brass ensemble, and wishing for more time simply to be gathered sitting in Godís presence.
- Uneasiness sitting next to the university president and in front of one of the vice presidents (like Mom and Dad watching over your shoulder to make sure youíre not passing notes during service. Will that *ever* fade?)
- Blazing embarrassment as my friend who was preaching read something I wrote and decidedly pointed out that a) I was up in the balcony (yep, still got that security blanket) and 2) my face matched the color of my red sweater. Thanks, Steve-O: I think youíre just getting back at me for posting your picture on my blog.
- Wonderment as someone talked shared about how the arrival of a baby changes *every element* of a personís life, and how the arrival of a baby savior mustíve signaled the same change. Another person shared about how Christ laid his life down daily: as he came to earth as a child, as a adolescent, as a young man – it wasnít just once on the cross, but every minute was a laying down of his life. I thought about if Iíd want to trade places with Judah – um, thanks but no. I like being able to do things for myself – I like the sense of ìpower/controlî I have in my life. Christ has *so* much more, and yet he put it all aside to become a powerless/dependent infant. Wow.
- Giddiness as I listened to my Birthday Buddy (we have the same birthday! I only know one other person who shares my birthday, and I love both of these girls dearly! We also share it with MaryLou Retton, Neil Diamond, and the Emperor Hadrian. Arenít you jealous?) share her thoughts on this weekís advent candle: joy. She talked about playing a game with a group of five-year-olds including her daughter: they would take turns hiding the baby Jesus from the nativity scene around the house, and then would give clues to help the group find him – some were general, some were specific, but each time the girls found the baby, ìgiggles of joy would ripple among them.î She wondered what sorts of ìoutbursts of joyî came out of those who literally found Christ in the manger, and how do we hear those outbursts today?
- Comfort in being welcomed into a community. It took us a good twenty minutes to get to the car after picking up Judah and chatting with friends in the hall. Various folks of all ages and walks of life talked with me, with Jason, and with Judah.
To me: thatís the church gathering.