First Congregational Church
December 24, 2014
Rev. Dinah Haag, preaching
Long ago, there was a book series that caught the nation by storm, called “Chicken Soup for the Soul.” The books are still around, but some stories stand out more than others, as this one from Candy Chand.
She wrote, “Each December, I vowed to make Christmas a calm and peaceful experience. I had cut back on nonessential obligations - extensive card writing, endless baking, decorating, and even overspending. Yet I found myself exhausted, unable to appreciate the precious family moments, and of course, the true meaning of Christmas. So far, this could be a lot of us, at various times in our lives.
My son, Nicholas, was in kindergarten that year. It was an exciting season for a six year old. For weeks, he'd been memorizing songs for his school's "Winter Pageant.” I didn't have the heart to tell him I'd be working the night of the production. Unwilling to miss his shining moment, I spoke with his teacher. She assured me there'd be a dress rehearsal the morning of the presentation. All parents unable to attend that evening were welcome to come then. Fortunately, Nicholas seemed happy with the compromise.
So, the morning of the dress rehearsal, I filed in ten minutes early, found a spot on the cafeteria floor and sat down. Around the room, I saw several other parents quietly scampering to their seats. As I waited, the students were led into the room. Each class, accompanied by their teacher, sat cross-legged on the floor. Then, each group, one by one, rose to perform their song. When my son's class rose to sing, "Christmas Love," Nicholas was aglow, as were all of his classmates, adorned in fuzzy mittens, red sweaters, and bright snowcaps upon their heads.
Those in the front row- center stage - held up large letters, one by one, to spell out the title of the song. As the class would sing "C is for Christmas," a child would hold up the letter C. Then, "H is for Happy," and on and on, until each child holding up his portion had presented the complete message, "Christmas Love.” On any given year, this might be on stage at Frankfort Elementary, or any other elementary school.
The performance was going smoothly, until suddenly, we noticed her; a small, quiet, girl in the front row holding the letter "M" upside down - totally unaware her letter "M" appeared as a “W". The audience of 1st through 6th graders snickered at this little one's mistake. But she had no idea they were laughing at her, so she stood tall, proudly holding her “W". Although many teachers tried to shush the children, the laughter continued until the last letter was raised, and we all saw it together. A hush came over the audience and eyes began to widen. In that instant, we understood the reason we were there, why we celebrated the holiday in the first place, why even in the chaos, there was a purpose for our festivities. When the last letter was held high, the message read loud and clear: "CHRIST WAS LOVE.”
After four weeks of waiting, the time has arrived: the celebration of carols and scriptures, our togetherness and an infant born so long ago. As the evening continues to unfold, allow your whole being to enter into all that has been prepared - love - for you, and me and all the other people in this world and through the ages.
You may remain seated, but let us continue with the Christmas Eve Unison Prayer in your bulletin.
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Just the messenger. And the collector and arranger of that which has been received. References available upon request.