I've spent my life in church. I grew up across the street from the church of my youth. Worked through college as a summer camp counselor and then right after college, started working as a youth minister. Then seminary. Now mission development with Humble Walk. I know. That's a ton of church. Which means, I have experienced a crazy number of Christmas seasons within church communities. Guess what? I've also mostly experienced churches adding to people's already brimming plates during the month of December. It's when we pull out all the stops on the choirs, hand bells, fanfare, programs, children's programs, concerts, extra services, angel trees, hanging of the greens and a ton of other activities and ways to add meaning. And really, what better time to ramp it up than the birth of Christ? That's sort of a big deal. And if your community needs and wants all the extra celebrating--then man, do it. With great joy. We will likely show up at some of your events. (Thank you).
But what if it doesn't? What if your people find themselves limping through the month? Gasping. What if they are already way too busy and have ridiculous pressure to produce every single day? What if they are exhausted? Or depressed?
As Humble Walk gathered to plan Advent, these were the questions we asked. What does a restful Advent/Christmas look like? How do you plan a season for a community that can just barely get themselves in the door of the gathering? For us, it's meant a simple liturgy, Taize songs, storytelling through Godly Play, time for silence (we can handle 2 minutes during prayers of the people), communion and the option to stick around for homemade soup and bread (generously made by some).
It also means not having a Christmas service. We have done Christmas Eve services in the past--and they are lovely and teeny tiny. Our folks are with their extended families. Or out of town. Or hunkered down. Or at one of the great big churches with orchestras and hand bells. This might change in a year. Or two or seven. But for now, we trust that our community will find their way to Christmas just the same.
We have never taken a Sunday off but we are this year. We are not gathering for worship on Sunday, December 29. The last five years have showed us that our community needs a Christmas Sabbath. Everyone is still with family or out of town. Or resting. And we can either cling to the theological claim that we gather for worship every Sunday no. matter. what. Or we can be honest and meet one another where we are. And we can trust the Incarnation--that Jesus shows up in the middle of everything no matter what.