Sunday, January 4, 2015
Christmas Eve in the city
After leading many Christmas Eve services over the years, this year was different. My wife and I and one of our sons and his wife went into the city to celebrate Christmas Eve at the Church without Walls. It's a church of mostly homeless people and they were meeting in a parking lot near the center of downtown. A locally heavy downpour moved the service indoors at the last minute to a conference room at the Episcopal diocese of Northern Florida. 100 people or so, some from nearby churches with walls, gathered for the Episcopal liturgy led by an Episcopal priest, a Lutheran husband and wife clergy couple and a Baptist pastor. Carols were sung to a single guitar accompaniment. Prayer concerns were lifted up by the people gathered around the room. It was a mix of races, ages, gender, sexual orientations, and social classes. Smells, too. One person seated near us reminded my wife of what that night must have smelled like as the shepherds came to worship the newborn King. The Baptist and Lutheran clergy persons brought the bread and cup around the room after sanitizing their hands. Each of us took a piece of the common loaf and dipped it into the cup of non-alcoholic juice. Then we passed the light of the Christ candle around the room and doused the artificial lights. Silent Night was sung. We held hands and prayed. Like many other Christmas Eve services this one was beautiful. And we sensed the presence of the King.