Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Let the Little Candledrippers Come Unto Me

The church where I go recently moved into a new building, our first. (We're a relatively "new" congregation: 10 years old.) This move has encompassed many of the things all moves entail: Deciding where to put stuff, getting new furniture, assigning particular people to particular rooms, etc.

We've been waiting for our chairs to arrive. (We went with chairs rather than pews because our facility is "multi-purpose": the room where you receive Communion will be the same room where we have dinners and large events of all shapes.) The chair company was slow in getting us our chairs, but no big deal. We have been using temporary, plastic, folding chairs which have served us just fine.

The day finally arrives when the chair company calls to give us the day and time we can expect the load. "They'll be here Saturday at noon." Saturday is Christmas Eve. Like many congregations, we have a Christmas Eve service that evening. Ours will be at 5:30. Should be plenty of time. (I must confess, I had visions of a late-arriving 18-wheeler, our folks scurrying around to unload the chairs and get them in place while running into arriving worshipers looking for a seat. No such mayhem ensued, however.)

But we DID have our own special "issue". The Christmas Eve service is a candlelight service. A large proportion of our congregation is kids. Most of our candles are kind of old and really drippy. Get the picture? New chairs. Drippy candles. Kids.

We didn't realize what an impact such an equation could make till after the service. "Pastor," several of our ladies couldn't wait to ask me afterwards, "have you seen the wax on the chairs?!"

Now I have to confess, my first response was NOT one of spiritual euphoria and bliss. I didn't quote scripture and see this as a "teachable moment". I muttered something about the plusses and minuses of having lots of children around and mainly skirted the issue, moving on to something a little less emotionally charged. It was, after all, Christmas Eve, the service was over, and I was looking to get home too.

Looking back now, one scripture does come to mind. Jesus had been teaching, preaching, healing, and generally, doing "Jesus stuff". A group of kids had formed around him, wanting his time and attention. Jesus' disciples were playing bouncers and tried to keep the kids away. I imagine them saying something like, "Jesus has more important things to do," or "Jesus is talking to the adults right now".

But Jesus wouldn't have any of it. "Suffer the little children to come unto me," reads an older translation. "Suffer": sometimes it is, I suppose. But is wax in the new chair too great a price to let a kid hang out with Jesus? I can just see these runny-nosed little rugrats climbing all over the Messiah. And Jesus loving every minute of it. May God give me the grace to enjoy what matters most and not get bent out of shape over the stuff that occasionally gets messy.

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