Christmas 2013 in Florida had unique blessings. It was different for us this year because we did not have all of our children here with us. Adam and Sarah went to be with her family in Champaign, IL after worship at his church in Dallas. Katie and her fiancee Brian will be here this weekend and we will have a little more Christmas. (Next year, though, I think it will be our turn to have everyone here, including a small addition to the family coming in July.)
This year I noticed that most of the churches in the community now worship in the afternoon on Christmas Eve. We are one of the few who still gather at night and then again on Christmas Day morning. We had fewer children in attendance than I remember in the past. I only gave out about a dozen candy canes. But their stanza of “Away in a Manger” was wonderful. I was pleasantly surprised to have four active members of the military with us on Christmas Eve. And I realized that no matter what else happens on Christmas, if you sing “Silent Night” to candlelight at the end, everyone will say, “That was a beautiful service.”
My Christmas Eve message was about the love we experience when God sends His Son and when we love others (1 John 4:7-16). I followed on Christmas Day with a sermon about the size of God’s Christmas gift to us — just a baby (Luke 2:7).
Gone are the days of beginning my Christmas morning at 6 am (or earlier) to open gifts. Our mutually agreed upon start time was 8:30, making for a relaxed morning after being up late for the midnight worship service.
A Facetime call with my dad, brother and sister on Thursday brought that part of my family together for the first time in many years. Technology is a wonderful gift for clergy families who can’t travel to be together for the holidays.
Our celebration of Christmas has gotten simpler over the years. I think we just got tired of trying to do everything (and everything expected of us). We’ve given ourselves permission to do less, relax (and nap) more, and enjoy the gift of our family.