Resurrection Chapel National Cathedral, Washington, D.C.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

A Quiet Christmas

Several weeks ago I had a conversation with a young pastor that I have been mentoring for the last three years.  She is a recent seminary graduate in her first call, and possess many gifts which she seeks to expand and refine so that she may be effective in her service to God’s people.

Our recent conversation was focused on the liturgical celebrations of Christmas, and her response to a significant number of members who stated that they would like to have a “quiet Christmas.” When she entered into discussion with them to clarify their need, she discovered that “quiet” meant a liturgy that offered opportunity for silence and reflection upon the coming of Christ in the quiet of night as described in the scripture narratives.  This would be in contrast to the other liturgies of Christmas that are full of ceremony, music, and grand panoply. These members had no objection to such liturgy, but sought quiet which one person stated as “a stark contrast to the cacophony that surrounds our daily lives which makes it difficult to hear what God is saying to us.”

The pastor had a number of conversations regarding this statement and concluded the need being expressed was for deeper understanding of God’s love, goodness, mercy, and promise of salvation given to us in Christ Jesus.  Therefore, there was a felt need for a quiet Christmas to hear the still, small voice of God.

I have no doubt that many others share the concern of these people.  We live in a noisy world of competing self-interests -- nations, communities, families, individuals -- and in the midst of the noise, there is a need for quiet and reflection to seek the will of God and the presence of the Spirit to overcome the fear and uncertainty that pervades all aspects of life.  The Nativity of our Lord proclaims that salvation has come, that God has come to us in Christ Jesus, and that the Holy Spirit is in our midst to show us the way to that salvation.  All of this happened in the quiet of night.  Therefore, while it is right and proper to celebrate Christmas with ceremony and panoply along with glorious music, it is also an opportunity to have a quiet Christmas celebration for reflection upon the coming of the Christ who is the Savior of the world.

My young colleague worked with the leadership of her church and they decided to continue to offer three opportunities for worship on Christmas Eve: a children’s service that focused on the narrative of the birth instead of, as one of her elders put it, “on the cuteness of fuzzy little creatures in the stable.”  The evening liturgy of Word and Sacrament would be filled with grand procession, glorious music, and many candles. 

The night service will be the ancient Service of Lessons and Carols, which is quietly simple, and offers opportunity for silence and reflection.  This service would conclude with brief celebration of Holy Eucharist. 

I hope that a “quiet Christmas” will bring a greater sense of joy in the life of this congregation in the celebration of the Nativity of the Savior who came to us, who was raised from death, and who will come again at the end of the age.

Hodie Christus Natus Est 

+ Richard Hammond Price, OCC
© December 2010

NOTE: The liturgies mentioned above are available by email at rhpocc@gmail.com

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