Do you remember Christmastime last year? I do. Every Sunday morning of Advent I would drive to the church in full makeup and yoga pants. (It didn't matter what I wore anyway because the camera just showed my head and shoulders.)
Then when I arrived at church, I would sit alone in my car in our empty parking lot a minute or two and wonder, how much longer it would be before I was preaching to people and not to a camera?
Next, I would drag myself out of the car into our empty sanctuary. Meghan would already be there and we would click on an enormous ring light, fire up my laptop, connect it to the camera on the tripod, pop my iPad into the teleprompter, check all the shots, fire up her computer and extra monitor for slides, and then troubleshoot whatever it was that was going wrong that morning. From my end, worship felt more technical than holy, but I was heartened that many of you still found the holy on your end during that time.
So I wasn't looking forward to re-enacting this exhausting routine on Christmas Eve. It didn't feel like Christmas without your candlelit faces before me. But when I came into the sanctuary that evening, it was filled with your illuminated faces! You, dearly beloved, had sent in photographs of yourselves holding candles that were pinned to the pew where each of you usually sat, an electric tea light beneath each one. My cup overflowed. It was, perhaps, the greatest Christmas gift I have ever received.
And this year, beloved, you again have given me the greatest gift of the year: the privilege to walk beside you through the joys and sorrows of life together, to grow in the Spirit as we seek God's wisdom, and to incarnate Christ here and now through acts of love and justice. Life together -- living in community -- is a difficult and fruitful calling. I'm so glad you have chosen this path, and I'm so thankful to walk it with you.
So Merry Christmas, blessed New Year, and may the Christ child reveal himself to you this season through love incarnate in your family and friends.