at Wesley Church
In place of today’s devotional, dear church, I want to talk to you about Christmas Eve.
I write this in the midst of a holiday weekend — the Thanksgiving holiday weekend. Thanksgiving is, without a doubt, one of my favorite holidays of the year. In a normal year, Keith and I host Thanksgiving, with both our families gathered around one long table. Keith cooks a great big turkey and bakes an assortment of pies, and we all share what we’re thankful for. We enjoy the day together, all of us together.
We didn’t have that this year. Our family — perhaps like many of yours — made the difficult choice to change our typical Thanksgiving plans. Our families didn’t gather around one long table. Instead, we kept to our own households, our own homes. Later, we Zoomed for dessert.
Why did we do this? Experts told us this was the best thing we could do to keep our loved ones and our community safe, to keep the hospital systems from being overwhelmed, to stem the spread of COVID-19. So for one year — one Thanksgiving, one holiday — we gave it up.
More than that… I offered it up. I offered it up as an act of care and concern for my community. I offered it up as a sacrifice of love to God. I offered it up to God, because God stands on the side of love and life… and this is what I could do to make way for love and life and the midst of COVID-tide.
Friends, another holiday approaches. A sacred, holy night. I have to tell you: I love Christmas Eve more than almost any other night. I want to gather in our sanctuary space with all of you. I want to light candles and sing “Silent Night.” I long to see the glow of candlelight in your faces.
Yet experts warn: the things that make my beloved Christmas Eve traditions so beloved are the very same things that can allow COVID-19 to run rampant. For months, our church Reopening Team has been wrestling with the question of Christmas Eve. How would we do Christmas Eve? How would we keep you, the people of Wesley Church (as well as your loved ones) safe? How would we manage visitors or walk-ins? How would we protect our staff or volunteers?
As cases continue to rise at record-breaking rates, we made the difficult decision:
Christmas Eve at Wesley Church will be online-only this year.
You see, friends, we didn’t want to have a situation in which some of you could access the sanctuary and others couldn’t, based on a first-come-first-served RSVP. We didn’t want to have to turn someone away at the door because our sanctuary had reached COVID capacity. (How do you say “there’s no room in the inn”, right? Especially in Bethlehem!) We certainly didn’t want the regret of learning that someone contracted COVID-19 at one of our Christmas Eve worship services.
Fear not, friends. We’re still going to have Christmas candles and “Silent Night.” (We’ll even supply the candles!) For those of you who love the tradition of taking the family photo in front of the atrium poinsettia tree — we’ll have photo appointments available for you throughout the coming weeks. And if you still want to see the glow of candlelight in everyone’s (masked) faces, you can enjoy our outdoor caroling and candlelight event on December 18.
On Christmas Eve, we’ll have two worship opportunities, both online. At 6:00 PM, we’ll offer a Zoom Worship — an interactive service designed for those who are longing for the face-to-face connections and energy of Christmas Eve. (Note: You can utilize Zoom through video chat on a computer / smartphone / tablet, or through a voice-only phone option from any mobile phone or landline). At 8:00 PM, we’ll offer a Facebook Live Worship — a livestream service similar to our regular Sunday morning format, and designed for those who are longing for the beloved traditions of Christmas Eve. (Note: You do not need a Facebook account to access a Facebook Livestream.) Both services will include contemporary and traditional music, and will end with our time-honored tradition of a Christmas Eve candlelighting.
In the coming week, we’ll be sending out an invitation and registration link. When you register, you’ll be able to request the Zoom link for the 6:00 PM service, and you’ll be able to let us know whether or not you want candles for the candlelighting portion of either service.
Church, this was a hard decision, one we did not come to lightly. Yet we are “people blessing people.” Now, more than ever, is the time to decide what that truly means. In this season of COVID-tide, I believe “blessing” people (in part) means protecting them. It means loving them with a self-sacrificing love. If the only thing we have to sacrifice is one holiday’s-worth of beloved and sacred traditions, then I think we can handle that.
In fact, I know we can… because throughout my eighteen months at Wesley Church, and especially throughout the past eight months of COVID-tide, you have shown me who we are.
We are people blessing people. We are Wesley Church.
Give thanks to God, friends, and remember:
Our God is bigger than coronavirus.
Our vision is bigger than coronavirus, too.
We are people blessing people.
We are Wesley Church.
Want to know more?
- Learn about our church and its ministries: https://wesleychurch.com/
- Make a gift to support our mission: https://wesleychurch.com/giving-2/
- View our recent messages: https://wesleychurch.com/sermon-message-on-video/
- View previous devotionals: https://wesleychurch.com/pastor-candys-devotionals-2/