In our home, we have a little saying when one of us begins to weep or cry at a movie or some other event like church. We simply say, “It’s a mystery!” rather than try to figure out exactly what triggered the joy or sorrow of the tears. Well, it was a mystery for me all evening…
I stood among the many people holding candles and sang the hymn that so many churches do on Christmas Eve – “Silent night, holy night” – and I thought about the six wonderful months I have had serving the people of First UMC, Princeton. They welcomed me better than the Christ child was welcomed into the world. They cared for me better than the shepherds in Jesus day would ever experience. And they listened, really listened as I led them to celebrate a Different Kind of Christmas by joining Jesus in the battle against malaria. When my daughter got up and began singing “O Holy Night,” I knew the night was almost complete – the singing of “Silent Night” and the twinkling of the candles allowed me to remember the love, the care and the service given by a community of faith.
The Saturday after Christmas found me spending time with twenty one of my family members in the Fellowship Hall of our church. My Dad got up to say a few words and my brothers and I all nervously laughed, not knowing how long this would take or just what might come out. But then he said, “Thank you. That is all.” And he sat back down. We were celebrating the fifty years that my parents had been married but from the stories being shared, I think we were just celebrating! There was laughter…there were crying, fussy grandchildren (yep…mine) and there was food. The only thing missing…perhaps the singing of “O Holy Night” would have rounded it out for me.
“I don’t know how things were going in there, but people were hanging around in the Gathering Space for along time talking to one another.”
It was a report that I really hadn’t expected. The coffee and the sweet rolls were in the sanctuary and people had come and gone for a couple of hours as groups – sometimes families, sometimes a mix of people – served one another in our version of the Moravian lovefeast. Hugs broke out easily when the eating was over. So, why was I surprised that the fellowship, the unity, the “agape” we shared in the sanctuary spilled over into the Gathering Space and probably even home.
Now that I think it about, only one thing was missing that night as well…”O Holy Night.”
Nah, it wasn’t a “mystery” for just one evening, it has been one mystery after another for a while! Thank God!