I actually learned this in El Paso. Organists do not simply practice. They worship. Each time they sit on that organ bench, it is a devotional time for them. In Saint Louis, the organist saw me coming—the way the balcony was built—and was ready for me; but in El Paso, I would come up behind Blanche and really startle her because she was deep into the hymn she was practicing. Nathan, in Aurora, was the same.
Nathan would get to church about an hour before everyone else. I would come into the narthex, from the church offices, and I would hear Nathan singing his heart out as he played the hymns and whatever other music shaped his devotional time each morning. Sometimes, I would just sit there on a bench and listen. I felt a bit like a little kid who is snuck into the room where a movie I am not supposed to see is playing.
Christmas Eve night is a special time for me. I like to wait until everyone has left the church building after the last worship service is over. I have done this in every congregation that I have served. This means that it is just around midnight and that it is just now Christmas Day. So, I am sitting in Bethlehem on Christmas morning!
I like to turn on the Christmas tree lights. I turn on the lights in the garland, that light up behind the little Bethlehem cityscape up there by the cross and light the candles. Then, I turn off the overhead lights—the chandeliers—and the lights in the hallways. I sit in the quiet of the sanctuary where I can see the “Bethlehem” stained glass window and let the joy of what God is doing and has done just fill my heart. I might even sing a hymn. You do not have to worry about tunes when you are singing just to God.
What do you do to worship at Christmastime?
How do you find/make time to spend in worship or devotion? It does not have to be in the quiet or in the dark. When I was in Colorado and had to drive to a pastors’ conference in the western part of the state, I would have to drive through the Eisenhower Tunnel—like the US 26 tunnel in the West Hills, but longer and deeper in the mountain. I love to turn my CD player up all the way and let the “Hallelujah Chorus” just fill the moment, there in depths of the earth.
As we close out the calendar year and begin the next, we are unsure of what 2022 will bring. One thing about which we can be sure is that our Lord will be with us in each moment. The Babe who laid wrapped in swaddling clothes in that manger wraps Himself up in our moments and meets us there—whether in the quiet or in a noisy room; in a devotional time or in a traffic jam. That is a reason to celebrate! So, celebrate the moments as they come, one by one.
Pastor Jeff Shearier