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Thursday, December 25, 2008

Christmas tales

At Christmas we try our best to hold services full of meaning and dignity appropriate to the day. In spite of our best efforts "things happen." Here are a few stories from our sisters and matriarchs:
Karen writes:
My first church had several big holly trees planted right outside the sanctuary. Our sanctuary was an old, federal (built around 1820) buidling with big, clear windows. One Sunday right before Christmas, right during worship, most of the congregation could see through these windows that a man had set up a ladder right next to one of these trees and was snipping off small branches and putting them in a big plastic bag. One of the ushers went out to investigate.

"What are you up too?"

"Oh, just getting some holly for our Christmas decorations."

"Those are the church's trees, you know."


"And---well, we're right in the middle of a worship service."

"Uh-huh . . ."

Absolutely no indication that this guy (not a church member) had any clue that anyone might think that what he was doing was in any way inappropriate.

RazorCityPastor writes:
My first Christmas as a priest, I'd been ordained about 3 weeks, and was nervous and excited for my first Christmas. That year, Advent IV was also Christmas Eve. In addition to the late service in one town, I was doing a 5:00 service in another town about 60 miles away. At that point I was quite wedded to preaching from a manuscript and had worked on having every phrase just right. Everything went well in Torrington. It was a beautiful winter drive back to Lusk, but I had not allowed sufficient time to check things over as thoroughly as I should have before the service started. I was simply glad that all the purple hangings from the morning Advent had changed to Christmas white. You can imagine my chagrin when I climbed into the pulpit and looked down to see my morning Advent sermon instead of my great inaugural Christmas sermon. I have no reason to be afraid, because I knew there was a copy from Torrington in the front seat of my truck. I simply told the congregation I'd be right back. They were used to some surprising starts to my sermons and thought it was one of those times. When I went to the office, however, I couldn't find the keys to my truck right away. They weren't in my coat pocket, not in my purse. I stuck my head back into the church and said I'd be right with them. Ah, there they were in the pocket of my skirt. Reaching inside my alb I grabbed them, and began to run alongside the outside of the church to my truck. The sidewalk was solid ice and the congregation could hear my panicked screams as I slid toward and under the pickup. I recovered myself enough to open the truck, grab the sermon, and come back into the church where everyone chuckled a bit and I preached a pretty good sermon for a beginner. Grace abounded. Sometime later I listened to a tape of that night and though it seemed an eternity, the whole search and rescue only took about 1.5 minutes. Funny in a way how Christ is particularly incarnate in the times of chaos.

When our youngest child was not quite a year old we took him to the late Christmas Eve service, Midnight Mass. Before the service musicians would offer a program of carols and instrumental pieces. Our son fell asleep on the pew beside us in the darkened church. During a flute solo, lovely, quiet interlude, he rolled off the bench, there was a moment of stillness and then howls and tears. We grabbed him up and took him out - he was not injured - but the mood was broken for that night! Wonder if baby Jesus would have approved?

What tale do you have to tell?


  1. Last night one of our 4 year old children, who had just learned the Lord's Prayer, was able to pray it with us during the Eucharist. When we finished that part, and he had said it all with us, (loud enough for us all to hear him) he exclaimed: "I did it!" It was very charming!

  2. It was a few weeks before Christmas, but some years ago at the Christmas pageant on Sunday morning, one of the shepherds briefly caught his robe on fire while standing too close to the Advent wreath. Happily, another shepherd and a quick-thinking parent beat down the tiny flame (though this did result in the appearance that two shepherds and a parent were fist fighting during the program). No harm done.

  3. Though I did not see it, last night someone told me that someone caught their hymnal on fire with the candle they were holding.

  4. When I was a child (about 6 or 7 I think) Dec 25 was a Sunday. For the time with teh children that day (something that only happened on special Sundays at that point in the congregational history as children generally were downstairs for the whole service) the minister asked what we got for Christmas.

    Apparently I very loudly announced that I got pencil crayons and how good that was because wax crayons were nothing.

    I note that while I have no memory of this event it has b ecome part of the family lore remembered clearly by my parents

  5. Last night at the candlelight service, we were in the choir loft and had already begun singing the preservice music, when it occurred to us for the first time: the choir had no candles. During the "greet your neighbor" part of the service, the big box of candles appeared in the choir loft (I guess an usher brought it, I didn't see). We hurriedly, and not too smoothly, grabbed our candles from the box just as the congregation was already starting to light theirs. When my friend and fellow alto Barb went to light hers from mine, she put mine out. It doesn't do to get the giggles during "Silent Night", especially when you're facing the congregation.

  6. We were in the first of our two traditional Christmas Eve services - I was the only pastor serving the congregation at the time, and this was the third of the four services that evening. I was preaching; my husband's usher team happened to be serving that night. In the middle of the message, I saw him standing in the back laughing so hard that he was wiping tears from his eyes. I didn't think that it was something I had said, but seeing him, the other ushers, as well as a number of worshippers laughing kept me wondering through the rest of the service.
    After the service, I asked my husband what was so funny. He told me about the sweet little 4-year old who had come back into the sanctuary from the nursery. Looking up the long aisle for her parents, and finally spotting them, she squatted down in her beautiful emerald green dress with the black velvet bodice, white tights and patent leather Mary Janes...and proceeded to "forward roll" her way to her parents' seat. The joy of childhood at Christmas - there for all seated along the aisles to see.

  7. Last year at friend's church for Christams Eve a lady cuaghther hair on fire as we processed out with canldes and Silent Night. After she beat it out, we could smell burned hair and laughed a lot..
    This year, I lsot my sermon and with 12 minutes to go I could nto find it, went back to manse, could nto find it, went back and with 5 minutes, choose to wing it...
    then i relaized I had no candle to light and we were out. I used the Christ candle to start a few and then put it back.
    I had a glass of wien before dinner last night.

  8. We began having problems with the lights in the church at the beginning of December. They would flicker on and off. Not all of them, just a select few.
    Well, at the late service Christmas Eve, I reminded the ushers that we needed to dim the lights for Silent Night. They didn't know how. No problem, I assured them, the head usher would be there and he knew how.
    Except he was a few sheets to the wind by that service and the dimmer switches refused to cooperate. So he came in the front of the sanctuary and fiddled with the switches up there. Sure enough, things began to happen. But it wasn't dimming. It was strobe lighting! All of the lights began to go on and off fast. As we processed out a few minutes later to the same effect - we couldn't figure out how to get it to stop - I mentioned to a doctor sitting at the end of a pew that this wouldn't be a good place for someone prone to migraines. She instantly inferred that I had one and offered to go get me a shot from her car.
    Yes, I grinned a lot that night.


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