The other day a colleague asked me what was my favorite activity of the Advent and Christmas seasons. Quickly I replied, “The Christmas Eve Candle lighting and Holy Communion.” The other Pastor said she liked that too. But neither of us said why we liked it.
So I thought about it. And here is why.
There are people who come to the Christmas Eve worship that I only see at that time. Yep. That’s right. I like the people who show up that one time. I know it sounds strange. Pastors and other clergy usually roll their eyes and breathe out heavy sighs when the CEO’s (Christmas and Easter Only) are mentioned. We even make jokes about how we are tempted to end the service with the words “See you next year.” But, when we consider the Christmas story we may be shamed by the shepherds.
Luke tells us the Shepherds are informed by the Angel that the Messiah has been born; and they can find him. We honor the shepherds in our Christmas plays. Were they very religious people? Likely not. One should doubt they made substantial contributions to the synagogues and the temple too. I think to the present day church they shepherds represent those CEO’s we talk about usually in a negative fashion.
Consider the fact that Christmas Eve worship can range anywhere from a small handful of people to hundreds. And yes, I know some people come because grandma told them there will be no opening of presents until church is over. So what? How many times have I walked into my office and heard a strangers voice on the machine asking for the time of worship that night. I don’t remember a time it has not happened.
A worship leader has the unmatched privilege of looking the stranger in the eye while sharing the light of Christ or offering the chalice and bread with the words, “this is the body and blood of Jesus Christ given for you.”
What greater pleasure can we have than to know that God draws the strangers and our neighbors to the celebration? Do we really want to act as though these folks are not worth our time?
I do not think so. They may not be dressed like the shepherds in our imaginations. But, they come to the house of God and give thanks for the miracle none of us truly understand. In humility let us receive these guests.