Christmas Eve Worship—Thursday, December 24
Family Worship @ 4:00 pm
I Love your more than Toilet Paper; thus, it’s the Best Christmas Ever!
Sermon for Christmas Eve 2020, 4pm Drive in Worship
Luke 2:1-20; Covid-19 Coronavirus Response
Our Saviour Lutheran Church, Warrenton, VA. The Reverend Terri E.L. Church
Do you suppose Jesus could have had colic?
That’s what snobby little Alice Wendleken wondered in that classic tale by Barbara Robinson, The Best Christmas Pageant Ever. Do you know that book, play, or musical? A little town was completely thrown off their normal routines because, through a series of events, the messy, mean, law-breaking, trouble-causing Herdmans—who had never even been to Sunday School!—took all the parts of the annual Christmas pageant. Alice usually played Mary but was threatened by Imogene Herdman, who took the part. During the pageant, with a cockeyed veil and dirty face, bossy Imogene thumped the baby doll Jesus on its back before putting him into the manger. At first, Alice thought it was inappropriate. (And I’m sure plenty of adults in the congregation thought it was “vulgar.”) But then she asked that question. Do you suppose he could have had colic? And our narrator, another girl in the play, says this:
“I don’t know why not,” and I didn’t. He could have had colic, or been fussy, or hungry like any other baby. After all, that was the whole point of Jesus—that he didn’t come down on a cloud like something out of “Amazing Comics,” but that he was born and lived…a real person.
If you haven’t read or seen it, you owe it to yourself to make this year the year to do so. Even if you have, re-read it! For when you see the Christmas pageant all out of whack and done in different ways, with everything wrong about it, you will feel right at home with it. For this is 2020, a year that has challenged almost everything we know about life—including our norms for Christmas Eve. My title for the sermon came from an ornament I found in my holiday shopping: it says, “I love you more than toilet paper.” And isn’t that a great message for this year? But I also had this book in mind; hence my title: “I love you more than toilet paper; thus, it’s the Best Christmas Ever!”
I remember my shock when, on March 20, I headed out for my usual groceries and a few extras before we were all locked in for a while. I turned the corner to grab a package of toilet paper, and you know what I saw, right? A completely empty row of shelves! There WAS NO TOILET PAPER! I wasn’t too worried. We had some, and I knew people were hoarding. They’d put more out pretty quickly. However, when Michael called to say he was on his way to Walmart for something—did I want him to grab anything? I suggested he might grab a package. Sure enough, he called to say he couldn’t get any either! He was pretty excited when he got home—he’d found one pack of 4 at a gas station!
We still thought this would blow over soon. And our family never completely ran out before we found some in a store a couple of months later. (Thank you, Marian, for finging a package somewhere to tie us over!) But the great toilet paper shortage of 2020 was real, a sign of what an—ahem—unusual year it would be.
2020 has, of course, been filled with many more challenges than a toilet paper shortage. Over 326 thousand Americans have lost their lives to it, and over 1.7 million people have died across the world. For all of you who have experienced one of those losses first hand, know that you matter, and I pray that you feel the presence of God’s love really and truly right now. You matter, and your loved ones matter. You all matter so much more than toilet paper!
However important those heavy losses are, there are many other losses and problems from this year, and those losses matter as well. They are changes and job losses and extra lessons and all the stresses from life being turned upside down that have been forced upon us. How we respond to them has affected our experience with this year. I think of them as “toilet paper moments.”
I wanted us to reflect on our own toilet paper moments. I’m not just talking about the ones like mine in the grocery store. No, I’m thinking of those other moments, and how, perhaps, we have grown because of them:
- Was there something you knew you needed, but thought would NEVER run out?
- How about something you thought you knew, but discovered you were wrong?
- Perhaps you discovered something you took for granted?
- Did you find yourself criticizing others only to learn they were right? Or at least had a good point?
- Did you learn something that was a lot of work, but now you have a new skill in your toolbox?
- What other moments caused you to pause, reflect, and perhaps be grateful for something shown to you in a whole new light?
These are the toilet paper moments we all have. And now, on Christmas Eve, I’m thinking of little Alice, and the whole town, whose toilet paper moments helped them connect with a family they had despised and shunned, helped them connect with each other, and helped them hear the true meaning of the Christmas story, perhaps for the first time.
It is a strange story! Why would God choose to come as a frail baby instead of in an Amazing Comics light show for all the world to see? Why?
- Because God loves us in the everyday aspects of our lives,
- Because God wanted to know what it felt like to hurt, to feel pain, and to need to be burped,
- Because God wanted us to know that we are not alone—not then, not now, not ever.
That’s why I believe this is possibly the best Christmas ever. When we are stressed, challenged, facing losses, uncomfortable, or just put into a different situation, new joys can shine through, and they help us connect with God, who chose to come and by like us. Sometimes they are light-hearted, like loving someone more than toilet paper. But often, they are the moments when we truly rely on the Word Made Flesh, God, in the form of a helpless child, and yet also the king of Kings and Lord of Lords—Jesus, our Emmanuel.
Whatever your situation here at the end of 2020, know this: God loves you, now and always, through Jesus Christ our Savior. Amen.
Online Lessons and Carols Worship @ 7:00 pm
Join Voices of Praise by the fire to sing traditional carols and hear the Story of Jesus from the Bible. The Handbell Choir’s rendition of The Little Drummer Boy will remind us that Jesus loves and accepts us just as we are.
Online Vigil Worship @ 11:00 pm
A mass choir by the Association of Lutheran Church Musicians will thrill our “midnight mass,” and Dean Kolb will offer some multi-part, a cappella music. Organist Barbara Hoke and others will share Christmas music in both new and old ways. The Christmas liturgy and carols will feel familiar and remind us of the old nativity story once more.
Christmas Day Worship — Friday, December 25
Worship on Zoom @ 11:00 am
To join Zoom service, click on the following link:
Meeting ID: 843 0020 1722
For those who wish to attend with audio only (telephone), dial +1( 301) 715-8592 and use the same Meeting ID and Password listed above.