We have a ‘Quiet Christmas’ service every Christmas eve at 8pm. It’s for anyone who wants a real Chistmas service, but can’t face the pressure to be jolly.
Here are the few thoughts that I’ll be offering this evening to whoever comes along.
It’s good that we’re here tonight.
But this is one of those services that we’d still do even if nobody came.
Because tonight is about us, about you. Each of us has our own burdens that we carry on our hearts: for some it is physical pain, of illness or injury; for others it is grief, as we miss the presence of someone dear to us who has died; for others it is anxiety at what the future may bring for us, and for those we love and for the world. For still others, it may be a sense of disconnection with the festivities of the season, and an urge to get back to the heart of things, without the tinsel.
Whatever burden you bring tonight – and we will have each brought something – this service is for us, this service is for you.
But it’s also about everyone who isn’t here: those who were too tired, or too sad, or too shy, to come. Those stuck in hospitals and hospices and prisons and at home. Those afraid to come out in the dark, those who don’t feel that church is for them. Those for whom some hurt or grief is so recent that they daren’t re-open the wound. Some of those people you may know, and think ‘if only so-and-so had thought to come to this. For some, their burdens are known only to God. We bring their burdens too.
Every candle we light, every note we sing, every prayer we say, every silence spent in reflection, is for ourselves, for our loved ones, and for the countless multitudes who know their need but have nobody to care or pray for them.
So it can seem as if this service is more about absence than anything else: the people who could be here but did not come; the people who we are separated from by distance, by conflict and disagreement, or by death. And in a way, it is.
But tonight is more about presence.
Not our presence here, coming to find God, but his presence in the world, already coming to find us. When we feel lost or alone, remember that God is the great seeker after souls. He is the one who came to us, and who chose to come into what is still one of the earth’s darkest most difficult places, because when you are the light of the world, the darkness is where you are needed most.
Into all our emptinesses, all our absences, all our lostness, may the presence of God come and dwell and settle. The hopes and fears of all the years, and our own hopes and fears, can indeed be met in him tonight.