Christmas Eve I noticed an unfamiliar face at one of our services. It was a man, wearing a knitted cap, sitting by himself. Between the face mask and his hat I could not tell his age, just that I didn’t recognize him. That in itself was a joy: a new person had found our church.
After the service I greeted him and welcomed him to our church. He said he had noticed we were open and came in looking for a Christmas Eve service. I told him I was glad he had come. He then asked if we had any blankets. “Come with me,” I said and headed toward the office. “Are you living outside?” I asked. He said that he was. I got him a blanket, food, gloves. He said he could also use some socks and I gave him socks. He thanked me, asked when our Sunday services are, and left. I went on to prepare for the next service and forgot about that encounter.
The next day, however, I remembered him. I reflected on where Christ had been that Christmas Eve. Was it in the children’s voices reading the holy words during the Family Christmas Eve service? I am always profoundly moved by hearing the story of Jesus’ birth come to us in children’s voices. Was it in the lovely music, some of it even live? Having had mostly recorded music for almost two years it was wonderful to hear violin, dulcimer, piano, and even harp, all live. (and none of them breath-based.) Was it in gathering outside, under the portico, holding up our battery-operated candles and singing (through our masks and outside so it was as safe as we could make it) two verses of Silent Night? Or was Christ born among us that night in an unhoused man who sought the shelter and comfort of our church for an hour, and left with a few things to help him survive a cold and inclement night?