Last year at this time,
I was posting about how Christmas Eve was definitely going to be different. We only had worship leaders in the sanctuary when we live-streamed Christmas Eve worship. After that, the high school youth helped lead two worship services in the parking lot in the middle of a cold and clear December night. Many of us stood in that cold, holding a candle or flashlight, and sang “Silent Night” with a whole new appreciation of those words.
A full year later, we were all hoping things would be “back to normal” but it’s clear that “normal” is not something we can get back to. Instead, we have the reality that is in front of us; one where hospitals are still full and the world is still feverish and suffering.
Yet it is into just this reality that Christ comes. It is into the real world, and not the wished for one, that God is pleased to dwell. That promised presence remains our hope and our joy as we celebrate Christmas this year, although it still may not be the way we remember it.
Love, not fear, compels our action
With a new variant quickly spreading, with hospitals already full and health care workers under strain, love compels us to “look not to our own interests but to the interests of others” (Phil 2:4). Vaccinations have most certainly helped and they are the reason we are able to gather in person for worship. I continue to urge people to be fully vaccinated. The evidence of their safety and efficacy is globally recognized.
However, there are other, simple ways we can care for one another as we gather in larger groups especially at worship services on Christmas Eve.
- To start with, we have spaced out the services with plenty of time in between. This limits crowds of people coming and going while also giving the air exchange devices in the sanctuary to exhaust the inside air while bringing in fresh air. That is why worship on Christmas Eve will be at 10:00 am, 2:00 pm, 5:00 pm, and 8:00 pm.
- We are also encouraging and asking everyone to wear a mask during worship. I know we are all tired of masks but the data remains clear that they provide an important and added layer of protection for others. Yes for others! While a mask provides some benefit to the wearer, it’s main job is to prevent spreading droplets and aerosols that might be harmful to others.
- Key worship leaders and wind musicians will also be taking a rapid test to help us be safe for you. We already have these tests on hand but this means that if I test positive, I won’t be able to lead worship! I hope that is not the case but if it is, there is a backup plan in place.
- Finally, even though we have done everything possible to create a safe atmosphere for many people to worship together on Christmas, if you are not feeling well for any reason, please join us online! I know the feeling of “I’m fine. It’s nothing really and I can just push through” and in some times and places that attitude is a good one. But this is not one of those times or places. The livestream at 5:00 will be a wonderful worship experience for anyone who cannot be at worship in person. It will be available on https://saintmichaellutheran.org/live/ just like it is every Sunday.
Now, a quick note for the days following. There is no worship on Saturday, Christmas Day. However on Sunday, December 26th, we will read Christmas Day scripture for the one worship service at 10:00 that day. There will be no Sunday school or other activities but our celebration of Christmas will continue.
One of our wise elders, who is a member of our medical advisory team said,
“We will get through this”
and indeed we will with God’s help. That is what we celebrate at Christmas. God is here to help. God has always been here to help but now in this child of lowly birth, the truth is fully revealed. God is with us! God is with us indeed! Emmanuel!