I am a parish minister currently serving the Eliot Church of Natick MA. Eliot Church is a Community Church affiliated with the Unitarian Universalist Association and the United Church of Christ. Any statements made and postions held in "Unity," however, are solely mine(of course, they may be used with appropriate atribution). Therefore if you disagree, please do not blame the church!

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Christmas Vacation

Two things happened recently that got me thinking. I was walking to the church yesterday after dropping the kids off at school when one of the other "walking dads" asked me what I was doing for Christmas vacation. "I'm Working!" I said. This, of course, is true. I am working three services on Christmas Eve. After that, I proceded to tell him how I would spend Christmas morning. After we parted company I started to wonder if what I told him might have sounded a bit too much like complaining. After all, most people have family-time, parties, and Thanksgiving-style feasts on the big day. My family does not. In fact, if one didn't know what I did for work, one might assume that I had been possessed by the ghost of Ebenezar Scrooge (pre-reformation).

Then this morning I read the post over at Peacebang, where she outlined her rather ambitious Christmas rituals and realized that I am not alone. Her plans are "ambitious" in the sense that we all try to achieve that level of relaxation and in-the-now-ness from time to time. More often than not, we fail.

So I thought I would share with you what I do. This story is not unique to me (or to Peacebang, whose plans are similar). Church Organists, Choir Directors, clergypeople and just about every trumpeter in Chrisendom celebrate in very similar ways. We like it.

For the last seven years, I have worked on Christmas Eve. I get to church early, make sure the place is clean, call my readers, musicians, deacons, etc to make sure all are ready and there is nothing that they need from me. I then read through the services. There are usually two of them. This year there is a third at the usual Sunday morning time. Are there enough chairs up front? Do the flowers still look fresh? Do we have the candles for the "silent night" lighting? I go through everything. I know that the deacons, musicians, etc are doing the same thing, but hey. It never hurts to check that list twice!

Then the services. This year the first one will be a small half-hour gathering for communion (probably) at 10 am. Wherever two or more are gathered as they say! This will be festive in a small way. If it goes well, maybe we will do it again.

The second service is the "Family" one. The kids play music. Congregants (many of them former RE denizens or RE Committee people) read from a "Children's Bible" and we will recite Christmas poetry from Dylan Thomas and Horatio Alger, Junior. Later, the more formal service begins. We used to refer to it as the "candlight" service but we have candles at the Family service, too. My readers will be the two community ministers affiliated with Eliot, the Reverends Dave Miller and Donna Tetreault. After that, I will have lost my voice. We say our "Merry Christmases," our Music Director, Stephen James, grabs a flight, and I close up church.

Back home we put on a video. My wife and kids will have ordered pizza after the first evening's service and put in some serious "claymation special" time. After a while we will go to bed.

My Christmas Day is similar to Peacebang's except with kids. We get up, we open presents, we have an enormous breakfast, walk, eat, play, and then sleep. We do not have visitors. Usually, we do not see family. I am too tired to do much more than hang out with my immediate family. Since they hadn't seen me pretty much for 24 hours, they like it, too.

That is Christmas for a religious professional. Certainly I miss the family and a part of me would like to be with them. Still, I like it this way. My mom, after all, is also a minister, so my parents will be doing similar things. They understand and I like the day without distractions, doing nothing with the wife and kids. It is a rare opportunity for everyone these days.

I hope you all have similarly satisfying ways of spending the holiday. God bless. Merry Christmas.