Home for Christmas

It is nice to be home for Christmas. I went to my parent’s church for their Christmas Eve service. It might be similar to the traditional Anglican service of Lessons and Carols, except that they are probably clueless about what that service is.
I’ve been going most Christmas Eve’s for the last, I don’t know, 15 years. Since becoming an Anglican, this service has become less and less meaningful, primarily because it is really just Christmas entertainment. That probably isn’t far, in fact I know it isn’t because it is quite meaningful to many, but it isn’t for me. My parents attend a Christian & Missionary Alliance church – a squarely American-Evangelical Church born out of the Wesleyan Holiness Movement through A. B. Simpson. My former tradition, Pentecostalism (of the Southern California sort), also began within the Holiness Movement. Now, I suppose, some would say I’m just a “snooty Episcopalian.” (Of course, that would mean I have money – HA!)
Anyway, I’ve changed. I met over lunch with a very long and close friend of mine near Cleveland before making my way to my parents. She and I both met during my graduate studies at Kent State and have been close ever since. We both commented on how much we have changed over the last 16 or so years, particularly concerning the way we engage with our faith, as if we can separate our “faith” from our “selves.” I have been changed by this tradition that I have given myself to – that I believe God has called me into.
The problems the Episcopal Church is having these days are of its own making, to a great degree. I can’t say that I am opposed to some of the changes, but I do see the direction the Church has been heading and it troubles me. I have become more aware of the notion of “catholicity,” particular due to my education at The General Theological Seminary in New York City, and at my field placement and current parish of St. Paul’s Carroll St., an Anglo-Catholic parish (probably somewhere between a Nashotah House and an Affirming Catholicism form of Anglo-Catholicism). I have changed, and it makes life difficult.
I think about this day when God became man, the Incarnation, and think about how all of humanity changed. The Creation changed. All things changed. This change in all things was and is a glorious thing, but the reasons for its happening are tragic. As a result, this change has been fraught with difficulty and anguish. Humanity has honored this fundamental change in the way we understand ourselves and God in not so good ways. As a matter of fact, the Church universal has been pretty bad in its attempts to uphold the high standards and calling resulting from this most significant event. The Mystical Body of Christ continues, but the Church, which is supposed to be the physical manifestation of the Mystical Body, has screwed-things-up more than it has not. Yet, it is this Church universal that God chooses to work through in all its fallible and imperfect ways. All things changed. All things continue to change. Are we able to see the changes encouraged by God and those encouraged by some other thing? Are we able to correctly or properly discern change?
My hope and prayer as I think about his most significant change and day is that in all my changing I will live into the real life understanding of what life in Christ Jesus is supposed to be. My hope and prayer is that my life will be a reflection of that most significant change, and that somehow, in some way, I can be an example in some simple way – an encouragement to others and a vehicle through which God can work to continue the work began so long ago – to reconcile us all to God, to one another, and to all of Creation.
So, whether I get anything out of a Christmas Eve service at my parent’s church is really moot. The meaningful thing is whether this event, the significance of this day, has changed me for the better, for the good, for the reasons God has ordained for my life.
It is nice to be home for Christmas. I wish the local Episcopal Church had not been closed. A Christmas mass would be nice, but that is another story.
Merry Christmas!