Unexpected chuckles on an Advent Sunday

Our second service this morning was “alternative worship”—-whatever that means.  Perhaps it means  that we used a screen (heads-up) instead of bulletins (heads-down).  Today, however, in the first Sunday of Advent, it mostly meant that two of our college students, who were home for the Thanksgiving holiday, led some of our music: guitar, piano and random percussion worked together.  One piece that a young woman sang was particularly beautiful: “Let Your Light Shine Down on Me.”  

That theme about which she sang came from Isaiah and Romans: Walking in the light of the Lord.  One of our quieter, young adults helped to lead worship, prayers, a teaching about the advent wreath and, yes, even parts of the “message”.  Another read the scriptures…and what does ‘debauchery’ and ‘licentiousness’ mean anyway?  Someone else had cut out footprints for each of us, and on them we wrote down simple, ordinary things that are characteristics of walking in the light of the Lord, maybe things that God is inviting us to do this advent.  People spent time talking to each other about ways they had seen God’s light in their lives recently.   Now you must understand, talking with one another about faith stuff is an unfamiliar step for reserved Lutherans who usually sit spread out in the pews apart from one another.  Yet today people moved closer together and before long the congregation was buzzing with conversation.  Singing the African song, “We are [walking] in the light of the Lord,” we walked and rolled (one of us is in a wheelchair) around the sanctuary, placing our footprints on the floor leading up to the communion table.  We looked at what other people had written on their footprints.   We walked up to place our offerings in a basket that had been brought back from Nigeria by two Peace Corp workers, relatives of one of our congregation.  

There were tea lights (battery operated) lining the path up to the communion table and which my alb managed to brush out of place here and there. It didn’t matter.  We hadn’t figured out how to get the wheel chair up the steps to the communion table, but by the end of the worship one of our people had already addressed that challenge for the future in order to make our rolling brother better included in the circle.   As we were singing “This Little Light of Mine” throughout communion, a second-time visitor and African American, lifted up her voice above the others and sang it the way we up-tight European-descended Lutherans can’t manage yet. For a brief  moment I had to pause in handing out the bread of Christ just so I could listen to her unexpectedly leading our song.  

In Advent we are reminded to wait, to wake up, to notice, to be ready for the unexpected coming of Christ. “Come, Lord Jesus.”  I can’t wait until Jesus comes again.  But meanwhile I am determined to write this down tonight because the quiet, intermediate arrivals of Christ in our midst are so easy for us to miss.  I know in my gut that Jesus was hanging around this morning, a foretaste of what is to come, and if I don’t write it down it will be one more of God’s gifts that may go unnoticed.  In this morning’s second service, we weren’t particularly organized and our worship wasn’t polished.  Some of us were definitely out of our comfort zones, and our ushers were graciously asking with puzzled looks: and what is it you are asking us to do?  

But here was Christ’s unexpected presence today: several  voices (not one pastor’s) led worship; many voices shared the message with one another—different ages, different backgrounds, different abilities were welcomed in tangible ways. In fact, the whole body of Christ was more actively working and participating in worship today. It was a community-body-of -Christ experience.  If no one of us was quite comfortable or totally sure about what was happening next, well, judging from the gospel today, that isn’t one of Jesus’ priorities. Jesus just tells us to be ready and then surprises us.  And, yes, my hunch is that he has a sense of humor about it all.

This morning was not quite what any of us expected.  All I’m saying is that Jesus, chuckling a bit, showed up in worship today.  (Thanks be to God.)