Okay... Back to the Methodist Church candle light service and why I'm glad most of the members don't know my name...:)
As I said in an earlier blog, I first went to this really beautiful service in 1997 with our international friends, Timothy and Jenny, where I had a small glitch and embarrassed myself... Hmmmm.
We didn't go in 1998 - actually, I think the roads were snowy and the late night service was cancelled.
By 1999, I wanted to go back. At that time we had a Russian student living with us and anytime you have one international in your home, you have several! And, as it often seems to happen with international impromptu get-togethers, things can snowball quickly:)
This particular Christmas Eve, as we were talking about going to the 11 p.m. service, things did indeed snowball and the next thing I knew, we had about 10 people who were on board to go with us! The group included just about every belief system from Missionary Baptist to Muslim and included at least one person who spoke no English. Also included in this group were a couple of young boys who were friends of David. And at the last minute, their mom was also able to make arrangements to come. While I was glad that all these people were going to the service, my anxiety level shot to the ceiling as I considered this unlikely mix of people, the language barriers, and all the endless possibilities for faux pas of the gravest natures to occur. I was one of very little faith.
So I did what any modern American Christian does in times of stress, I grabbed the phone and prayed someone would answer at the church...ha! Although it seemed like a long shot, I was able to get through to someone; what they made of my somewhat garbled and frantic S.O.S., I have no idea. I do know that the people in that church came through with flying colors.
And really, everything came off without a hitch except for a glitch that happened just as we were filing into the foyer. I was standing close to David's friends and their mom; however, unknown to me, her youngest boy, who had a terrible sinus problem, suddenly whispered to his mom that he was about to throw up. This was news to her and not welcome news either but no sooner had the child said it than.. he did it. The mom, being more quick-witted than I would have been, stuck out her hand and caught most of it... (I know... it was definitely a "yuck" moment and also falls under the category of Things-the-Christmas-Carol-lyrics don't tell you about..). I was already inside the church when the mom came up behind me and hissed, "I need a bathroom. Quick. C. just threw up in my hand!"
It was not my finest moment. I just stood rooted to the spot, running this information through my data banks and coming up with, "What? He did what?" and "Is she kidding?" and "How can I tell her where the bathroom is, I've only been here once before myself!" While I was still mentally floundering, an usher stepped forward as if this were the most natural thing in the world and gently directed us to a restroom without any unnecessary commentary:) (You can see why I really like this church...)
The rest of the service went without a hitch and I have to say it was a neat experience, worshiping with such an eclectic group, sharing the beauty of the service with close friends and also people from countries far away. I really, really loved it. In fact, I loved it so much that I hoped to make this a tradition but the next year, although we were still working with internationals, we couldn't get a group together to go to the candle-light service. At first I felt let down, knowing that it would be just our family.
But by the time the 11 p.m. service rolled around, I was at peace, thinking that with just us, there would be no problems. As it turned out, I was wrong... I should have known:)
Just before the service started, our young son started having hiccoughs. Not the quiet kind, either. He wanted to get a drink but again, I had no clue where a fountain was so I, being very maternal, told him to "get over it."
However, I also started racking my brain, trying to figure out what to do. I was drawing a total blank when the service started and so, to our horror, the readings were punctuated by these loud hiccoughs that nothing seemed to diminish in volume. Talk about uptight- I was!
At one point, when we were standing up to sing, David looked earnestly into my eyes and begged, "Mom, stare at me and count to three!"
Being slow as always, I hissed back, "You want me to do what???" He repeated his, by now desperate plea between hiccoughs and I asked him "Why??" He assured me that his teacher did this at school and it never failed to work!
So while the congregation sang, I stared into his eyes as if I were Rasputin trying to hypnotize Alexis and solemnly counted "One - Two - Three!!" For a few seconds, our gazes held each other and then he gave the loudest hiccough of all.
Poor kid! He looked stunned and then said in a small voice, as if he couldn't believe it, "It didn't work..."
The song was over so we sat down. He let out another huge hiccough and I leaned over, full of motherly love, and said between clenched teeth, "Hold your breath!"
He looked distressed, pulled at my sleeve and said, "You want me to quit breathing???"
I explained to him that I wanted him to count to ten while he held his breath. He hiccoughed before telling me that he'd already tried that.
At this point, I gave him the evil eye and said, "Well, keep your mouth closed!"
He looked upset and said, "I can't breath through my nose!"
At this point, it finally occurred to me that we could...ummmm.... pray....
I mean, after all, we're sitting in a church... duhhhhhh....
So we did. And guess what?? He hiccoughed a couple of more times and then... they were gone.
Even now, I look back at that service and wonder how we could have wrestled for a whole 15 minutes, trying every home remedy we could think of without ever considering prayer.
I don't think it was because I was concerned about bothering God with such a rinky-dink problem. I think it was because I was pretty confident that we could handle this on our own, that we didn't need God's help, thank-you very much!
The rest of the service went well and I think we all enjoyed it. To me, there is something so right about sitting in a worship service, surrounded by beauty, as the final minutes of Christmas Eve melt into Christmas morning. If you've never done it, it really is wonderful.
But I still think about the hiccough fiasco periodically. We could have handled it, normally. For some reason things just weren't working right and none of our bag 'o tricks worked that evening.
On the other hand, there are some things that no matter how hard we try, we cannot handle by ourselves - ever. And that, really, is what Christmas is all about. God is holy, pure, and without sin. We aren't. Just as light cannot coexist with darkness, pure holiness cannot coexist with even a speck of sin. Yet God through His Son, made a way to bridge the gap between light and dark, between sin and holiness, between Himself and us.
If you don't understand why God had to send His Son to earth, please consider prayerfully looking at these verses in the Bible:
The message of Christmas is soooo much greater than a baby in a manger, candles, music and flowers at midnight, and a few answered prayers here and there. There's an unbelievable love out there for each of us and that is what Christmas is all about.