Our pianist has only been with us a few months. She’s an outsider to our community and our church traditions. A church woman herself, she answered the ad we placed for a pianist needed: Sundays, 8:45 – 10:15 a.m.
She walked through the doors our first Sunday of Advent, greeted me as I said, “it’s Advent, you never know what’s going to happen so hold on.” I’m not sure if I detected the look of confusion or fear on her face.
Surprise, and a bit of a mess, is often what you get when you corral a group of folks not accustomed to church. For some, it brings back memories of their youth. There is a divide between generations and cultures when it comes to church though not always what I expect.
The room is set. Randall has placed every single one of the 100+ pieces of a grand nativity on the table in back of the chapel. In all of it’s beauty, honestly, it’s too much for me. But it’s not for me. The figures tell a story so they remain.
He’s set our simple Advent candles at the front and a lovely tree sits to the right of the platform, dressed in muted tones to complement not take over. The externals have been planned and arranged. That’s the easy part.
We’ll have different men read the Advent parts each week. They’ll stand in front, on either side of the candles, pass the microphone back and forth adding a pause in their readings I’d rather not have. Many will look confused when it comes time to light the candle and fumble with the lighter provided so they’ll dig their Zippo out of their pocket and light a candle, maybe two and I’ll sit in the back of the room shaking my head and smiling. Smiling because does it really matter what lighter they use? Does it matter that it’s the second Sunday of Advent and they’ve lit two candles in addition to the one already lit so we have three? (I breathe out a sigh of resignation)
Our first Sunday they got the candles right. Right candle, right lighter, right time (with a nod from me). And then the order fell apart. The song we were to sing following this was skipped as was the prayer and music solo. Somehow, the simple outline clearly printed on a program and handed to everyone was ignored? Forgotten?
What a mess.
There was a time this would have frustrated me. How could people not follow the simplest of directions? How would they learn how Advent is suppose to go? Order is part of God’s design and plan and, really? A Bic lighter dug from your pocket to light that purple candle?!
This time I shook my head and smiled. The one learning is me.
I’ve learned the order, the lighter nor the candles matter. Only our honest expressions of God’s grace and love will make a real difference. That’s what is always on display. And I sigh again wondering if I’ve given my best at that.
David Crowder’s song continues to remind me that our messy lives is just why Jesus came.
In the middle of the mess, there is majesty
In the middle of my chest, is the King of Kings
While the world was waiting on
A change to come along
Light broke in
Coming like a song
All this glory, all this glory, all this glory
In the middle of the night, after all this light
Jesus, God with us
Jesus Christ has come and I’m undone
Maybe next year we’ll have the Messy candle.Somewhere between Hope, Love, Peace and Joy we’ll acknowledge this mess of a world, of a life, to which Jesus brought his majesty.
“The Word became flesh and blood, and moved into the neighborhood.
We saw the glory with our own eyes,”
John 1:14 a the Message