Christmas Eve Hurt
Last week we celebrated Christmas all over the world and for many people that meant going to Christmas Eve church services. As a pastor of a church I often think about how important that these services can be for people that during the season will come and check out church. I mean if you are involved with volunteering at a church or on staff you have probably seen the investment that comes with getting ready for Christmas Eve. There are decorations, there is lighting, there is sound, the right songs, cookies, people dressed up for Christmas, and stuff for the kids. All of these things are not bad and they can be important for what you are doing at Christmas time. But this year I saw something that has challenged and changed my heart.
You see this year as we were all getting ready that night for Christmas Eve services at our church in Aurora. There were things that really caught my attention you see we had some places that didn’t have enough volunteers, there were some places that didn’t have the right volunteers, heck can I be honest there were places that didn’t have any volunteers. So as I was trying to figure out how to handle the volunteer issue I do what so many other pastors do in this case, I voluntold my son to help me out. Which he did with out a question, ok maybe with one question. Why? I told him that he is in the best place to make a difference during our Christmas Eve services. These words were so true, more than I would have ever known.
You see we had a man show up right about the time I was getting ready to go on stage to speak that was high and very drunk. We do live in CO so the high part is never a shock but the drunk part well that was hard for us all to see. So I as walked on stage I saw one of our elders, my son along and his college friend start to deal with this man. At least that is what I thought.
The truth of the matter is that they took some amazing time to care for this man. What my son shared with me was that this man had just walked in because he saw all the people walking in and heard the music. He told my son that he was feeling lost and so lonely that he thought I might as well walk in there. My son, his friend, and our elder gave him something to eat (cookies are important), then gave him a cup of coffee, and talked with him. Even helped him walk into the auditorium for a chance to hear silent night and watch the candles being lit, after he had fallen twice just trying to sit in a chair in our lobby area.
So when the service was over I came out to meet people and make sure everything was going ok. Well the man had wanted to go have a smoke in the parking lot (nothing new at this church), so my son and his friend went with him. Out there he shared with my son that he had been smoking weed all day and had been drinking with different people he knew all day. That he was lonely and just hurting. Then my son told me the man then proceeded to vomit up the cookies and the coffee. All the while my son stood with him and made sure that he was ok, even patting him on the back as he got sick. The man being very embarrassed, put out his smoke, hugged my son said thank you for listening and caring then walked away towards the street. My son and his friend followed the man to the street making sure that he was safe as he disappeared up the street into the darkness.
My son came back and told me how bad he felt for that man and that he was sorry that they couldn’t have done more.
To be honest as a father and pastor I have never been more proud of my son, our elder, and his friend. Because the truth of the matter is that in many other places and yes churches this man would have been seen as a problem and a nuisance. But on this Christmas Eve he was cared for he was fed and he was invited in to see and hear about the birth of Jesus. So what challenged and changed for me this Christmas Eve? I have always thought about making sure that we are prepared for the people that are coming to check out church. But in all honesty I have never thought about the people that might literally stumble into our church. So it challenged me to start thinking about the people that stumble in that are in need for something other then a church service, especially on Christmas Eve. It has changed me because as I stood on the stage and talked about how the shepherds that came and found Jesus were the outsiders in the community. We had the exact same thing going on right in our lobby. It has changed me because I want us to think about how we can have Christmas Eve services for those that are high, stumbling drunk, and lonely this next year. It changed me because of what an amazing man my son has become and how he cares for the people that no one else wants to care for in this world. It changed me because the elder of our church could have really been more worried about getting the guy out of the building instead of caring for him. He cared for him. It changed me because my sons friend who I know is struggling with the question of faith watched faith in action.
If this would have happened at your church how do you think people would have responded? What can you do next Christmas Eve to make sure that your community of faith is ready for the high, the stumbling drunk, and the lonely that might show up?