Since That Night

I KNOW YOU DON'T HAVE A LOT OF TIME TODAY

but I need to resurrect this old Christmas Eve story because, well. Because. You'll see.

Three years ago today I was preparing for my first Christmas Eve service as a pastor. I was worried, I was nervous, and I was a little bummed that my boys, Sam and Nate, probably wouldn't be there because their dad's family has their celebration on Christmas Eve. And let me tell you, those McChesneys know how to do it up. They know how to throw a party, how to celebrate, how to love each other, how to be together. So I understood. Still, I was wishing my sons would be there for my first Christmas Eve as a pastor.

There was a small chance they would show up, but I didn't want to press the issue. You know, Christmas, family, traditions. Sacred stuff.

I couldn't believe, that night, how many people came for the service. I was nervous as hell. I had one of those fight or flight moments, wondering if I could slip out the back door unnoticed. I didn't; I stuck with it. I'm still there.

The time came, the bells tolled, the boys hadn't made it. I had to step up to the pulpit and get the show on the road. I started saying something, I don't recall what and it doesn't matter. It's not part of the story.

The two doorways into our church are in the very back, so I can always see who's arriving. I saw some commotion and looked at the door to the right. And there they were, all of them, the McChesneys.

Lee and Marion, my former in-laws; Mark and Margaret, my former brother and sister-in-law; their kids: Ashley, Olivia and Jack; Scott and Phoebe, my former husband and his wife; Abby and Luke, their kids, and my boys. My boys, Sam and Nate.

I had to stop. I couldn't not stop. It's the way I am. I wanted to cry, but I thought maybe not tonight. But I stopped and I walked down into the aisle and I greeted them, hugged them, thanked them.

And then we did the thing. O Come All Ye Faithful and Lo! the angel of the Lord came upon them and the candles and Silent Night.

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It's a great story, right? The McChesneys, who feel like about twice as many as there are of them in reality, you know, they're big and bold and loud and colorful, put their Christmas celebration on pause and came to church that night.

Which was and is and will remain one of the greatest stories of my life.

But it's what's happened since then that sweetens the telling even more.

Since that night Marion and Lee and Mark and Margaret have become regular church-goers. Marion and Lee, especially. They show up every Sunday and sit in their place. Lee reads from time to time and Marion brings snack from time to time, and they enrich our lives all the time, by being there. Mark and Margaret read from Scripture and share their stories. They make it all better, too, because they're Mark and Margaret.

Tonight Mark will read and Sam will be one of the ushers and Nate and Abby and Luke will ring the bells twelve times before we sing Silent Night. No discussion necessary, no quandary, no conflict. Only family, redemption, forgiveness, evolution, expansion and love. 

Amen and Merry Christmas.