You ever get one of those ear-worms? You know, a song you can’t get out of your head? I can try singing and imagining other songs, engage in creative writing processes, go for a run, even read a deep and dense theological tome, and boom, as soon as I lay the book down, there the song is. Today it’s: “Some glad morning when this life is o’er, I’ll fly away. To a land on God’s celestial shore, I’ll fly away . . .” Now understand, sometimes I sing that at the top of my voice where Rick, our music director can hear it, because it’s NOT one of his favorite songs – yes, because I am just like that! But Rick isn’t around right now, and it’s Christmas and I’ve been listening to the Christmas music stations on my truck radio and playing Christmas CD’s at home, and using the Christmas station on Amazon music in my office. So why, why, “l’ll fly away???”
Maybe it’s the great convergence that happened in the sky Monday night that hasn’t happened in 880 years. Pause for a moment, there are people in this world that know stuff like Saturn and Jupiter have not converged for 880 years. What’s the inside of their brain like on a daily basis? Just askin’. So as I’m driving home from Grace, I’m looking to the southwest, and I see it!!! I did not have a telescope or binoculars or a Christmas paper wrapping tube to look through, but I still saw it. And . . . I don’t think I could have followed it for two years all the way to Bethlehem. I’m not even exactly sure I could have followed it down the hillside from watching sheep to find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger. But then I figured they didn’t have all the ambient artificial light we have in our world now with large cities and planes, trains, and automobiles. Maybe looking at that great convergence that hasn’t happened for 880 years I thought about a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and then flying away . . .
Maybe it’s the approach of Christmas Eve. It’s Dec. 23rd, and normally anxiety would be rising from my stomach to my throat and back down again and up and down because Christmas Eve is approaching and from 3 p.m. to midnight I always get to see so many people in various states of dressed-up and dressed-down finery. The preparation for that Christmas Eve consists of how many more times can I write a sermon and then re-write and then cross out and then reverse delete and then delete again and then reverse delete? But not this year. This year I’m simply excited that I’m going to be on the roof and be able to see people in their cars listening on an FM station. Having communion with our lovely little packets of perpetually lasting no shelf-life-date wafer and juice. And then this picture I have in my head of us each turning on our headlights one car at a time to pass the symbolic light of Christ as we sing “Silent Night”. Maybe at the end of the service it sorta seems to make sense that I would be able to simply “fly away” since I’m closer to the heavens on the rooftop . . .
Maybe it’s 2020 FIIIIIIIIIIIIINALLLY coming to an end. And there are vaccines and I’ve seen actual people actually getting vaccinated and I’m allowing myself the small spark of hope that we’ll be back in worship together by . . . Easter? I mean, it might be possible, right? If we could keep practicing social distance, if we could KEEEEEEP WEARING OUR MASKS, if we could keep sanitizing hands and masks and rooms and countertops and doorhandles and hands and masks. So a nice older gentlemen yelled at me last week (not a member of Grace) but I was wearing my Pastor at Grace name badge as I walked to my car through a parking lot and he asked if my church was meeting in-person. I told him not yet but we are on-line and gave him the website address and that we’re on youtube and Facebook. He harrumphed and asked why I knuckled under to this wimpy Governor and her minions who were way over the line of separation of church and state. I shared that, in fact, churches are exempt from the suggested limitations of in-person gatherings however in the last several months I’ve done some funerals for folks for whom the virus ended life sooner than it probably would have otherwise and they are people that I loved and cared for as a pastor. And that I couldn’t imagine how I would feel if I knew they had become infected because I had not made the decision to limit our in-person worship for a few months – you know, short-term pain for long-term gain, and I smiled my really big, goofy, crooked smile.
He suggested the wimpy Governor and I should pack up our (colorful-language inserted here) lives and move to China. I have no small amount of temper but sometimes a little more of good sense and I hope a bit of kindness too, and I wished him a Merry Christmas and a healthy New Year. He didn’t say it back. I sat in my car and prayed for him, and then I, quite frankly, prayed for me because I’m tired. I’m tired of anger and threats and hate and the belief that we are more different than we are the same. Maybe sometimes I just want to fly away, not forever, just until this part of the story is over . . .
I do believe there was a Bethlehem star. I do believe that the Christmas Eve promise of new life is real in the throes of a pandemic and in the days past and the days to come when we lift our candles together in the same room again. I do believe there is grace for folks with opposite opinions about all kinds of things and that kindness is not dependent on anything but our choice to make it so.
Maybe this ear-worm about flying away is a gift – just go with me on this for a minute. Maybe one of the gifts of this Christmas is remembering that God is not and has never been limited by our inability to see past our own discomfort in chapters of history that don’t finally last forever. Real lives have been lost and I grieve for those families. New lives have been born, and I celebrate that great joy. And the stars even yet light up the heavens for all God’s beloved children. And you know what? “Some glad morning when this life is o’er, I’ll fly away . . .”
You know I had to include a rendition of that great southern gospel hymn in the video below. AND ALSO a version of Silent Night because tomorrow afternoon at 4:30 we’ll drive-in worship and communion with pastors on the roof and end singing Silent Night together with Rick on our FM station (I’ll be belting it from the rooftop but Chan will have turned off my mic). We may not be Reba and Kelly and Trish – but it will sound just as sweet!!!
Also remember Christmas Eve with Common Grace and Pastor Kyle at 1 p.m. – outside by a fire!!! And Christmas Eve from our sanctuary at 7:00 p.m. both on-line FB and YouTube which you can get to through our website.
MERRY CHRISTMAS EVERYONE!!!