Rev. Kathi's Message
As the new minister, I knew that there were often a lot of expectations around Christmas worship and I didn’t want to let anyone down. So, hoping to get ahead of the curve, I asked in August, “What is it like here at the holidays?”
The answers were very helpful, and I learned some very interesting new traditions. One person told me, with real nostalgia in her voice, that the children’s pageant always happened on the fourth Sunday of Advent. She talked about the joy and chaos and the heart-warming fun of all the pageants over the years, the pews filled to overflowing with families. “Lovely,” I thought, “Christmas pageant the week before Christmas.”
A few days later, another person dropped by my office to tell me that the pageant was always part of the early service on Christmas Eve. He talked about the re-enacting of the nativity story: how it was beautiful and reverential; how even children from the neighbourhood who didn’t come to Sunday School would show up to play a shepherd or an angel. His eyes actually teared up a little. “Oh dear,” I thought, “Christmas Eve pageant.”
Being a younger, people-pleasing kind of minister, you can guess what I did of course, there were two pageants that year. A big, noisy, fun-filled pageant on Sunday morning and another simpler one on Christmas Eve.
I actually carried it on for three years and every time it almost did me in. Writing two complete scripts, finding two sets of performers, multiple costumes and props, organizing and leading rehearsals for two different events - on top of all the other Christmas obligations, I was exhausted and cranky and in no way feeling the joy. And in the end, no one even thanked me for working to meet their expectations. It was discouraging, but it did teach me to let go a little of other people’s priorities for the season.
I do not know why this time of year, more so than any other, is fraught with the need to be perfect; to replicate some ideal memory of past years. Why do I feel that if I make any mistake - over bake the sugar cookies, choose a crooked tree, run out of wrapping paper, mail the cards too late – I have ruined Christmas.
Is it all too much for you, trying to meet all the expectations – especially your own?
This year, let’s loosen our grip on traditions so that we can pick up a giant cup of grace and enjoy the season for what it is, not what it is supposed to be.