As my congregation lurched and fuddled it's way towards another Christmas Eve service, things felt...well...more complicated than usual. Since I've been at my tiny kirk, our services have been held jointly with the Korean congregation with which we share space. Many years, it's been a great sprawling buffet of a worship, crammed to bustin' with skits and songs and music, all cobbled together at what seems like the last minute. The message I'd deliver would be prepared and delivered jointly with my Korean counterpart, blended and woven together over several sessions of mutual study and preparation. It was a joyously sloppy whirlwind event, a hoaah Jackson Pollack celebration of the Christ child.
This year, though, things going in were messier, and not in a good way. The Korean congregation fell into conflict and imploded catastrophically, and is now in the churchy equivalent of receivership. The mostly Korean young adults who now make up the bulk my still-tiny congregation tended to side with the pastor who has now left, and have a tense relationship with those who remain.
And yet...and yet...we were still to have joint service together.
As I worked to prepare for the service with the retired Korean pastor who is now overseeing the remains of our sister congregation, it became evident that the buffet was going to be a bit leaner this year. No Korean choir. No guest musicians. Even the brilliant pianist who incongruously leads music for the remnant of their congregation required some gentle suasion to participate. From our side, no young adult choir. No bell-choir. No dancing Asian-Santa-girls. Just a small pageant skit. I was ready for this.
What I wasn't ready for was not delivering a Christmas message. While we met to plan, it became clear that for a variety of reasons, the retired Korean pastor expected to deliver the message this Christmas Eve. Not jointly. Not in dialogue. Just him.
I struggled mightily with this. This year has been a hugely hard one for the church. If things don't start trending differently, this could be my last Christmas in this ministry. It's also the service to which my extended family comes every year. And I'm not going to be able to take this opportunity to lead worship? My pride snarled and yanked at the chain.
But as my irritation increased, so too did my irritation with my irritation. It was Christmas Eve, dagnabbit. What possible right did I have to be proprietary or egocentric? It seemed...well...a bit self-absorbed. A bit stunted. A bit small.
I took a spiritual deep breath, and got myself over it.
The service itself was smaller, but both lovely and a bit chaotic, as always. The music was beautiful. The kids in the pageant were endearingly cute. And the message was low key, thoughtful, and on the good side of fine.