I have served as the church musician at Trinity Evangelical Lutheran Church in Lansford for over 10 years now. Our church has always had an 8:00 pm Christmas Eve service. Last night, snow squalls and black ice prevented us from having our traditional Christmas Eve church service. Some unexpected snow led to accidents…which led to road closures. My father and I attempted to get to the church, but we came to a point where the police directed us to turn around; a portion of Route 209 was closed. Our pastor also was unable to make it to church, as part of Route 443 was closed. While it was disappointing to not be together with our parish family celebrating Christ’s birth through prayer, Scripture, song, and communion, it was much better to play it safe and stay off of the slick roads.
There are those things in life over which we have no control. Most of us are quite good at planning. We organize, design, create, and put structure to our homes, our work, our days, our gatherings, our lives. And then…life happens. Often times, life has other plans. And often times, we don’t understand them. But I think that’s part of God’s plan…to remind us to let go & realize that we are not in control. Our job is to be our best selves and make the best choices with what we are given…just like Mary and Joseph did on that holy day in Bethlehem.
If Mary and Joseph were to choose a time and a place for the son of God to be born, I am certain they wouldn’t have named a tiny stable in Bethlehem on a cold winter’s night as the ideal conditions for Jesus’s birth. They were not prepared and didn’t want the blessed birth to turn out like that. But the circumstances were what they were…and things turned out okay…even better than okay. Mary and Joseph did their part and trusted and prayed. And that’s what we can do, too.
So often in life, we shape and sculpt our environment and have very neatly packaged visions of how we want everything to flow. Sometimes things flow as we have predicted and planned, but other times the weather, timing, other people, and so many other factors change things around, and we must go from there. But the good news is that on many occasions the outcome is better than we could have ever imagined.
Many times, the shift in plans leads us to enjoy it all more. We relax our shoulders as we let go of the rigid blueprint we had been holding. We laugh at how our serious and well-intended game plan was turned upside down. And we take joy in the connections we make with others as we bond over the unpredictable circumstances. Something about uncertainty brings us together, as we realize that none of us have it all together & we all can bring a lot to each other’s lives as we support each other in this unpredictable and sometimes crazy life journey. Besides, memories are made out of missed flights, unannounced visits, improvised recipes, detours, creative alternatives, unscheduled stops, and those minor mishaps that keep us on our toes. I’m convinced that God has a sense of humor.
A belated Christmas liturgy is still possible, and silent meditation and reflection has power. There are so many possibilities, but what matters is that the Christ child was born…not where or when or how he was born. And he lives in our hearts if we are open to His power, His plan, and keeping the faith, including all of the vulnerability and mystery that is inherent in faith.
Above is a photo of the Christmas tree at Trinity Evangelical Lutheran Church in Bowmanstown, where I played a later Christmas Eve service (after roads re-opened.)