Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Searching for the Christ Child

The title isn't quite so allegorical as you think. We actually spent about ten minutes before the Christmas Eve service desperately seeking the Baby Jesus for the main creche at the parish where I serve as interim priest.

It is actually a very interesting creche, set up inside the altar itself. A simple wooden chevron suggests the stable, while the remaining figures stand on black satin.

It was already in place on Sunday last. Actually in the Sunday before last as we compromised the calendar in the interest of the children's pageant. But Sunday last the creche had only its minimalist roof, one ox and one ass. Mary and Joseph were not far away - standing on the altar pavement - but they hadn't arrived yet. The shepherds weren't there yet either, out tending their sheep on the edge of the pulpit. And the magi were in the middle of the aisle at the back of the church, still some ways away.

Tonight, Mary and Joseph, and after some panicked moments, the Baby Jesus, were all installed in their places. The shepherds were "summoned to his stable" during the gradual hymn. And the magi were now half way up the aisle - accompanied by a helpful "Mind the Camels" sign prepared by my good wife.

It was a good celebration in a community which seems increasingly hopeful and future oriented. And generally united. There is no parish on earth that doesn't have some divisions and tensions. But this little parish seem quite determined to be a family together.

I contrast this with reports out of St. Nicholas Church in Atwater, California. This is a mission in the Diocese of San Joaquin - a mission where priest and people seem determined to remain part of the Episcopal Church. Perhaps they are geographical fundamentalists like me, and refuse to believe that their part of California is now in South America. In any event, what happened there on Sunday morning is beyond sad - and parts of it beyond bizarre. I'll let you read it for yourself. The link provides further links to several different eye witness accounts.

We found Jesus tonight at St. James - literally, allegorically and eucharistically. We all came to the same table, together. That is where we belong in worship - at the same table, together.

1 comment:

felix hominum said...

We had an 8 year old angel Gabriel who had recently completed some elementary ballet classes, and decided to give an impromptu recital around the shepherds. That set off a wave of dancing activity around the manger - who knew that Mary and Joseph had those kinds of moves?

You just can't beat a great kids' pageant. Fun, fun fun.