This Christmas, I attended the best Christmas party ever.
It really didn’t look like anything interesting beyond a nice get-together to begin with. We were invited to our friends’ home, Dan & Karen. Karen loves to host, Dan loves to cook so they’re a formidable combination. At first, John & I thought the party would be small; us, Dan & Karen, maybe their kids, and the Olsens, a family of 7. (Yes, that passes for a small party at our church.) We found out the day before Christmas eve that we’d also be joined by Dan’s sister, her daughter & boyfriend, and another couple from our church. We would also have a white elephant gift exchange. Our idea of a big party is 8 people, so this was definitely becoming a stretch for us. To add some spice, a winter storm was on its way and that meant John & I would need to leave to early to visit my family, on Christmas day. We were becoming stressed and apprehensive.
After spending much of Christmas Eve preparing for our trip, we slipped off to celebrate Christmas Eve at Light of Christ. What a sweet service! Expecting a handful of families, we were blessed with many visitors! The Kemper Center Chapel was full of candlelight as we sang “Silent Night.” Fr. Eirik delivered a children’s sermon, then corresponding sermon for adults. Communion was wonderful, and I prayed with the hurting. My heart was open to the newborn Christ, the spirit of Christmas.
As we apprehensively stumbled into Dan & Karen’s home, both John & I warmed to the party. There was wine and cheese and excellent conversation. There wasn’t one person I didn’t talk to, including Kathy’s daughter and boyfriend, who I didn’t know at all. There was a spirit of “goodwill” coursing through the room that we were ministering to each other along with peace and (dare I say it) happiness! When we sat down to eat, there was plenty of delicious food–a beef tenderloin with mushrooms and onions, potatoes, brussel sprouts (which I love), fruit salad. We talked and shared stories about our families and laughed ourselves silly. Even the white elephant gift exchange–which I’ve usually experienced as long and tortuous–was short and fun. We left feeling full of Christmas cheer and full of good things.
As I’ve reflected on this party, I’ve been amazed at the presence of Christ despite the lack of overt discussion about him. I can picture Jesus being there, engaging in small talk, laughing at jokes, digging into Dan’s food with gusto, engaging the kids and making sure Kathy’s daughter & boyfriend felt welcome. In fact, this might have been one of those magical, heaven meets earth moments where we got it right as fallen human beings–the Spirit was so present within us, and we ministered it so effectively to each other that maybe Jesus didn’t need to be anything more than be another human being enjoying a great party.
What a gift to him and to us!
Merry Christmas, everyone.