I attended four Christmas Eve services. Not in person but online. There is nothing magical or admirable in the number. That’s not what it was about for me. I missed gathering in a church building alongside family and friends. But my decision was to focus on limiting my circle of contact in order to be able to gather with a small group of family on and around the holidays. I want to stay healthy for the people I love. So, I meet with God and worship in ways that don’t look the same as usual. Instead of focusing on what I miss, I try to gather my gratitude for the opportunities I have.
Last year, I shared the story of attending two Christmas Eve services (in person). It was just what I needed at that time. It filled more of my schedule but also invited me to empty myself and let God fill me with his presence as a final preparation for the next day’s Christmas celebration. It’s not just a Christmas thing for me. I want to be filled with God’s presence every day.
As much as has seemed unsettling this year, much of the online access has been a blessing, multiplying ways we can regularly refocus and fuel our souls. We have to be intentional; after all, we can focus on distracting images and fuel our souls with spiritual junk food. But on Christmas Eve, I planned to fill the evening with a variety of messages, songs, and creative expressions of God’s Word. I didn’t sit in front of a screen. I could see it, but I could also move about. I could sing along, repeat key phrases, and dance a little. At times, I multitasked with some food prep. It was a rich, full evening.
I was surprised at how different the services were. I mean, it’s the Christmas story, right? It doesn’t change from year to year or church to church. Yet I found digging into it and welcoming what God was offering to me flowed together while stretching my understanding. I listened with a discerning heart and I let the truth steep and the challenges mull.
I’m glad this year was different. That doesn’t mean I’m okay with the pain of the year. I know so many who are still reeling and adjusting and struggling. Yet in the midst…We seek God. We find God in the midst. We follow God in the midst. As we invite him to permeate our lives, we trust him to clarify, heal, and challenge us. The process can be unsettling at times, but he will fuel our souls.