Advent 2021: The Beginning of Christ (Christmas Eve)

Despite the well-known Christmas song, we can be fairly certain that the night that Jesus was born was anything but quiet. Between a city full of people, a stable full of animals, a sky full of angels, and a woman full of pain, “silent” was likely not a word one would have used to describe that night in Bethlehem. And yet, into all that noise, the Lion of Judah came in the form of a tiny, squawling, lambsoft baby. In the midst of her exhaustion, I imagine that Mary cuddled him close, using what she had learned from helping her cousin Elizabeth to clean, swaddle, feed, and rock her holy son to sleep, her lamb slumbering in a manger. Amidst all the clamor of that night, this most important of events was definitely not center-stage, but, tonight on Christmas Eve, we celebrate it first and foremost. We celebrate the work of Christ that was begun on that night in a solitary stable and ended on a seemingly hopeless hill 33 years later. Tonight, as Advent ends, we celebrate Christmas’s beginning. We have expected, we have prepared, and now we rejoice.

Let Heaven and Nature sing, joy to the world. The Lord has come.

Merry Christmas to you all, and on earth peace, goodwill toward men.

Art by Jay Bryant Ward

The Quiet Christian

I am a Christian. I believe that Jesus is the Son of God. I believe that he came to earth, lived a life as a human being, spoke unapologetically of God, loved others, gave strength and help and forgiveness where it was most needed, and then gave his life, submitting to a gruesome death as a man whose innocence even the highest authority of the day did not and could not dispute.  I also believe that Jesus did not stay dead but rose up three days after his burial. I believe that it is my responsibility as a Christian to love others, to do good to them, and be as much of a help and a blessing as I can. I do not believe that it is my job to judge others, to tear them down, or destroy their hearts. That flies in the face everything that Christ stands for, in my mind and my heart.

What I realized this weekend is that I am a quiet Christian. As I was in worship service with others, I found myself focusing on the woman who was playing the piano and leading the singing. She was amazingly talented – beautiful voice, wonderful playing, and a passionate love for what she was doing. There was something in her personality that shone through that made me shrink back. In that instant, coupled with other thoughts I have had this weekend, I realized that I am a “quiet” Christian. I do not mean that I am embarrassed by or ashamed of my beliefs. What I mean is that I will rarely be found up front. When I was younger, in college, I sang on the worship team at church, as well as led the drama team. But that is not my forte anymore, at least I do not feel so. The older I get, the less I like to be in the “spotlight” of ministry. I like the behind-the-scenes, the quiet aspects and form of ministry. I’d rather be tidying the nursery, writing the script for the Christmas pageant, or sending cards and notes than being up front leading the congregation. That is where my grace lies

I am an introvert. I am a quiet person. I thrive in the things I can do that no one else but maybe one other person sees. In college, my favorite ministry was Secret Encouragers. We would encourage our student leaders in Student Christian Fellowship – our Servant Family – in secret – with cards, notes, email, and gifts. And we would help each other do so. I loved sneaking around leaving gifts and sending notes that no one would ever know were from me. I ran around campus in the early hours of the morning – fog still rolling off the flagstones – leaving cookies that I had just baked at the doors of professors, ministers, and counselors who deserved my thanks and some encouragement as finals week was about to commence. And I carried a warm heart with me all the day long afterward.

Maybe telling you this is counter-intuitive for a “quiet” person, but this blog is about honestly telling about my life. I enjoy the quiet things of ministry, which, sometimes, can take as much courage and vulnerability as getting up front and leading publicly. And I remember that my faith is one based on love and that any time I do one of these “little” things, even if God is never mentioned, it is a ministry of love. I am here to do good to and for others, to give hearts a boost, and souls some encouragement and soothing if I can. I never know if or when something I may write or text or say may connect with someone and grasp them out of a downward spiral. I cannot tell you how many times a note or card out of the blue has lifted my heart and stopped a downward path cold, nor can I ever say thank you enough for that little bit of love that was sent my way.

So while I may step out into the light every now and again, I know where my work of faith, my grace, my gift lies. It’s in the little things, the quiet things, the things that I may never know just how much they mean but that I want to do anyway just because I believe in it.