I know it is now Christmas morning, but these are some reflections I had from Christmas Eve. It was quite different from past ones.
For one thing, I worked until 2 pm at the storage facility; and Jane did not work (at a job anyway). It was a slow day at work for me, but a couple fellow employees showed up and we celebrated a little.
As for the evening of Christmas Eve, we had nothing planned. Isaac and Ricci were still in Indy, and Drew Carrie were at his side of the family. So, when they asked for help for the Christmas Eve service at church, we volunteered right away. We served in our usual role as greeters at the West entrance. There was only one service for both church sites, and it was packed. There were no tables, and chairs were set up in rows like a regular church (I suppose). They still ran out of chairs. I would guess there were maybe 600-700 people or so.
I did actually enjoy welcoming people to the 8 pm service, but it was just kind of sad in so many ways. I kept thinking about how much I used to enjoy putting together the Christmas Eve service at our old church (when I was a pastor). It was one of our most-attended services of the year, and I really liked planning and organizing it, not to mention leading it. Jane would play the piano, I would speak, the kids were always there (and later the grandkids). It was always a sentimentally wonderful time if nothing else. I always enjoyed Christmas Eve. Now... the best we could do was volunteer to hold the door open for people. And even doing that, the leader of the greeters felt the need to explain to us what we were supposed to do, and then he kind of stood and watched us the whole time. The whole thing was a little disconcerting, but mostly just left me feeling bummed.
It didn't get better when we finally joined everyone else in the worship room (we don't really have a "sanctuary"). As I said, it was basically standing-room-only, but an usher found us two seats and escorted us to a spot where we were totally surrounded by strangers. Sure, there were people in the room that we knew, but we still don't feel like anyone really knows us. So we sang, and sat, and lit our candle in the midst of a large group of people, and were pretty much alone. I don't know if this is the first time we've ever spent Christmas Eve without the kids or not. It kind of seems like it. Certainly I understand, and I'm okay with it, but it was different.
So... as I sat there feeling pretty much totally disconnected from time and place and any Christmas-y feelings whatsoever... I started wondering to myself why this was. I ran through my time at Fairview; the decision to ask us to leave the church; the refusal of any of the leaders to speak to us since that time; not being allowed to return to say goodbye to the people of the church; the fact that Jane used to teach (kids & adults), play the piano, lead holiday cantatas, women's groups, speak occasionally, and a host of other things, and now she has no role whatsoever; remembering when I used to love being a pastor so much - the joy of singing and playing guitar, of preaching, praying, studying, intimate moments when visiting people of the church... I just never thought I sucked that bad. I don't understand why, not only did a handful of people decide we were unfit for church leadership, but they had to suck all the joy and worth from our lives, they had to abandon and betray us, and still - some 2 1/2 years later - refuse to give us a thought. And these were our very best friends (or so we thought)!
Anyway, that's what I was thinking as I sat among a group of strangers for the Christmas Eve service at the church we have been trying to be a part of. We are not a part of it, and it left me wondering if we're a part of anything. I felt so disconnected. The service was over, and we just walked out. No one spoke to us. We went home and Jane finished cooking and preparing for today, so I just went downstairs and slumped in my chair and drank a bottle of wine or two. I don't even remember what I watched on TV. I wasn't really watching it anyway, I was lost in thought and time. Ugh... I do not like this life I have created for myself. I just still don't understand what happened. I guess we will never know.
However, today is a different day. It's Christmas, and we are getting ready to head over to begin celebrating with the grandkids (and their parents). Later on Isaac and Ricci will be here. So don't worry about me - I'm okay. I just hate what I've done to all of our lives. I wish it was different, but I guess it just is what it is. Time to move on. Christmas Day will not be quiet. And... at least we've got each other. I know things could be a lot worse.