Before we headed down to my Small Church on Christmas Eve, my husband suggested that we surprise the congregation with luminarias on the walks. His idea; the kids' execution, as he took off to see his mother, re-hospitalized for complications of her heart surgery two weeks earlier. (She's expected home again tomorrow.)
I was very grateful that he made it back and that my family was with me for both Christmas Eve and Christmas Day services. The people at church loved the lights and responded with enthusiasm to both services. I know that I'm still in my honeymoon period as their pastor, but it's wonderful to serve a congregation that expresses its appreciation at every opportunity.
We spent Christmas evening at the dinner hosted by the family who took over our 20-year tradition after Josh died. We haven't been here for the past three years, but the combination of cancer and calendar conspired to keep us in town this year. The evening was beautiful: the house, the tables, the food, and the friendship. I came home pretty early, exhausted by the previous two days, but everyone else was there for hours more.
It was hard ~ all the other young men were there, those who live here and those who live in Boston and Portland, and the one who brought his wife and baby home from Chicago, which I see as the future that was intended for us ~ but I guess that I'm getting used to it. Christmas will never really seem like Christmas again, but then, neither will anything else.
And so . . . a blend of melancholy and gratitude, missing my boy and yet grateful that I have been given work that forces me out of myself to think of others and their longings. I am well aware that I'm not alone. My husband's brother is confronting both his family's grief over his mother-in-law's death a week ago and his own mother's medical situation, two women in my congregation are making their way through their first Christmas as widows, and several others as fairly recent widows, and a friend from my home church stopped me in the grocery a couple of days ago to say that she wished that the Blue Christmas service had been held again this year.
I have to admit that I am grateful that next year's calendar will permit an immediate post-Christmas Eve escape!