Christmas Eve is a difficult service for me. By the time we get to the Advent finish line, I'm usually physically exhausted and (often) spiritually exhausted as well. Dealing with people and organizing things and being "on" is really tough for the old introvert by this time. So tonight, I made sure I got to the church far ahead of other people, and not just to open things up. Had to get myself ready, mentally and spiritually.
That began with some alone time with God, starting with me saying to him, "Lord, I need this far more than any of my parishioners." Which is not to denigrate their need for joy or hope or forgiveness; it's merely a confession that I need all those things, too. I need Jesus. I need to be on the right side of him, and being smart or getting the pastoral work done or being polished in leading worship is no substitute for that. I need to be loved, I need to take his body and blood into me, I need to hear the message. And I don't have the luxury of being led by someone else; I've got to do it for me while I'm doing it for and with everybody else.
So, just a little extra time to admit my need and ask for strength and grace. And, for what it's worth, this year I was a little less rattled. I enjoyed the music -- prelude and other service music, solos, hymns. I heard the words of the Scripture, even as I read them. Then there were the people. Their love and good wishes struck me deeply, perhaps especially since I was a little more at peace than I often am on Christmas Eve. And, of course, there were my daughter and her family, who are always a joy to me to share worship with; but there were many others it was a joy to see and share the time with.
God is faithful. I feel a little stronger coming out than I did going in. I reckon I'll make it a bit longer. Jesus has promised to hold me up and get me all the way home. Only he can do that, and I'm counting on him for it.