I just returned from serving as an usher and candlelighter at the three Christmas Eve services at the Unitarian Universalist (UU) Society of Burlington. The first was at 4 in the afternoon and was the unrehearsed Nativity Play that is put on every year with the assistance of the Director of Religious Education as the Master of Ceremonies. She would read part of the story and then call for volunteers for the important parts. As this is the children’s service, there are plenty of volunteers, with many antics to show they are the correct ones to be picked to be Wise Men or shepherds or sheep. This is an acquired pleasure. The first time I saw it, I watched in horror as squealing children seemed to run around with no guidance, making a mess of the Sanctuary and vocalizing some brutal highs.
Now I watch in amusement and amazement at the controlled chaos, the interruption of traditional Christmas carols coming as a new group of characters gets attired in the front of the vast room. I watch with wonder as the Director manages to get in most of the students there from the RE program as well as the few new faces of Christmas guests. Two of the new faces this year were the sweetest little girls, done up fancy and dressier than is common for our little spot of the world, hair nicely coiffed, and prim manners on display until they finally raised their hands to play. They were included and their delight was apparent in their running to get their costumes. The nativity story is played out in all its detail with stars and angels, Mary and Joseph, sheep and shepherds, wise men and others bringing gifts.
After the excitement of the children’s service, the staid middle service, starting at 6 pm and the most crowded one, seems almost placid. Lots of carols, candles lit for “O Little Town of Bethlehem” and the lights extinguished. A wonderful homily by our Interim Minister, while our regular one is home with her newborn son, Cassidy. Trying to get them all out at the end of the service was difficult logistically, but the joy and togetherness on all but the youngest of faces was enough to get us through the bottleneck.
The last service at 8 pm, it was clear that the choir and the minister were getting a little tired, although someone who had not been to the prior services would not have noticed. My legs were aching a little (it’s hard squatting at every row to light the candle of the person in the aisle seat! for three services!) and my throat was a little parched by all the singing. But the joy remained, the feeling of fellowship, warmth and love filling the hall with lightness. We were all family, and it was worth it to feel the hope for peace and justice in the coming year.
I have all this extra good will and joy, and so I am sending it out on the internet to grace as many people as can be graced. May you all have love and joy in your lives, and peace on this poor earth. The new year is around the corner. Make it the best one yet!