New Perspectives: A Beautiful Mess by Rev. Heather McCarrel

Photo by Emma Leigh/Unsplash

I hadn’t been the minister long, only five months when the Sunday School Superintendent approached saying, “You don’t have to lift a finger for the third Sunday of Advent, I will take care of everything.”   It was White Gift Sunday; the Sunday of Joy, and she would tell the organist and choir which hymns were chosen and she would pass the order of worship to the secretary.  She assured me everything would be taken care of and all I had to do was show up.

My husband, daughter and I arrived that Sunday to utter chaos!  There were children everywhere, we usually only had five arrive on any regular Sunday, but this Sunday there were at least five times that many.   There were three Marys, two Josephs, one Wiseman, five angels, three sheep, countless shepherds (all in their bathrobes and towels), four elves, two reindeers, one Santa and a pink and white unicorn.   I was a bit confused by the pink and white unicorn but later was told that was Ashley and she wore her Halloween costume everywhere.

I became nervous when the service began with Santa entering the sanctuary and taking the seat at the front.  Soon a few elves and reindeers followed as they entered and sat by Santa’s feet; but I relaxed when Santa picked up his Bible and began to read out loud the story of Jesus’ birth.

And, on cue, the children came down the aisle as their character appeared in the story.  That is, until a wrestling match started somewhere by aisles five and six between one of the Marys and her brother, a shepherd!  While they were duking it out in the aisle two of the lambs began a bleating contest to see who could bleat the loudest, three of the angels discovered they could climb over the front pew, down it’s back, under it and back up over the pew again and again, two of the shepherds began sword fighting with their shepherd’s hooks and a Joseph found the piano keys and began to pluck away!

It was a mess; a beautiful mess!

Santa just kept reading, louder and louder, as the characters piled into the sanctuary stepping over the wrestling shepherd and Mary, around the dizzy angels and despite the bleating sheep.  The story continued until the Wiseman presented his gifts to Jesus.  He then turned and galloped away on his broom stick camel and Santa sat silently, the angels stopped playing, the sheep stopped bleating, and all the fighting ceased.  The sanctuary fell quiet.

The story was complete.

Or, was it?

Two 12 year old elves quietly came down the centre aisle and as they did so one of the Senior youth went to the pulpit and carefully said, “Wise people still search for Jesus to this very day.”  As the two elves approached the manger, they knelt, and while looking down into the face of Jesus they touched a switch on their hats making the top of their elf hats swirl up and down in a comical gesture of awe!

It was the most powerful rendition of the birth of Jesus I had ever witnessed.  The joyful, unexpected, uncontrollable and messy presence of God was dancing throughout the sanctuary filling us with joy and laughter.

But, before I could make the mistake of over thinking this service, I was handed a piece of paper.  The children and the Sunday School Superintendent were now all lined up at the front of the sanctuary and pre-recorded music was playing.  I looked down to the “hymn” sheet and couldn’t believe my eyes.  I looked straight at the Sunday School Superintendent as she winked at me and with a huge smile she began to lead us all in the final song of the service, “Grandma Got Run Over By a Reindeer”!

It was a Sunday I will never forget!

May God’s joyful presence dance through everyone’s Christmas celebrations and may we all be so filled with hope, peace, joy and love that they last for the entire New Year!