Monday, December 16, 2013

English Carol Service

Last night our church had its 4th Annual Traditional English Carol Service. We were packed to standing room only for this event, which features not only Christmas carols but also scripture reading, candle-lighting, minced pies, and mulled wine. The majority of those who come are not members of our church, so it is a great way to reach out into the community.

As resident English speakers, our family usually has the privilege of participating in the production of this service. Last night David played guitar, Graham played bass, Chandler sang in the choir, I delivered the Gospel. Below you will find the story that I told as means of an introduction to my message. 

In the United States, where I grew up, school children always eat lunch at school. Some bring a sack lunch from home and others buy a hot lunch from the cafeteria, but all the students eat together in a giant lunch room. The only adults present during lunch are angry aids and administrators who had the misfortune of being assigned “lunch duty” and seemed to take their resentment out on the students. Needless to say, school lunches were not much fun for me.

One day, as I was walking with my classmates in a squirming line towards the lunch room, I noticed a stir. Looking up, I saw the source of the commotion.  It was my Dad. My Dad was an important business man who worked in a big office downtown. He wore tailored suits and wing-tipped shoes and he always carried a briefcase. He traveled all over the world and made mind-blowing presentations before brilliant scientists. I had known him to be in three countries in the course of a single week, but I had never seen him in the halls of my elementary school. I was so confused. What was my Dad doing at my school in the middle of the week? Why was he suddenly in my little world?

I broke all protocol, got out of line, and ran to him. He swooped me up in his strong arms, gave me a big kiss, and simply said, “I came to have lunch with you.” 

My Dad stood in the food line right by my side, he pushed his tray right behind mine, and then paid for both of our meals. He followed me to the table, and then somehow folded his enormous body into the tiny chair next to me. His knees were practically touching his ears, but he didn’t seem to care. And then all my friends and classmates gathered around, each one wanting a piece of Mr. Dennis. We regaled him with our tales, showed him all of our tricks, and told him all of secrets. My dad told us stories of his school days, asked us all sorts of questions, and smiled broadly. On the one hand, it was a bit bizarre to have him sitting at my grubby little lunch table, there in my childhood context. In his presence my world suddenly seemed smaller and dirtier. On the other hand, it was comforting to see that he was exactly the same person here as he was at home—gentle, funny, kind, charismatic, upright, respectable, and even in-charge.

That event was a long time ago. But it still moves me. My Dad could have dined at any restaurant in town. But he chose, that day, to come to my world. He chose substandard food, a sticky table, and a bunch of noisy kids. And he delighted to do it.

In a way, my Dad’s trip to my Elementary school is a picture of what God did for us at Christmas. We can easily overlook, as we imagine that helpless baby on the hay, that he, the swaddled one, was the Creator of the Universe. He was the great I Am, the one who parted the Red Sea, the Holy One of Israel. He left his heavenly downtown office for this messy lunchroom that we call earth. Imagine the Eternal God folding himself into the confines of human flesh so that he could dine at our lowly table. So that he could listen to our hearts, look us in the eyes, tell us of his love, and demonstrate his goodness.

That, in a nutshell, is what separates Christianity from every other religion known to man. Every other religion tells us what we need to do to reach God. But Christianity teaches that God reached down to us. The God of the Christian faith is simply the God who showed up.

1 comment:

  1. Ah, Jenn! I LOVE this!!! I can picture the whole scene... and it blesses me so that Abba Father would indeed, choose to leave His "heavenly downtown office" to lean into my messy, sticky world. I needed these words today... to be reminded that He somehow folds, "his enormous body into the tiny chair next to me" all because He wants to be a part of my tiny world! Blessings, friend!