Christmas (Eve) Reflections – Part 2 – Fighting with a llama and worshipping baby Jesus

The night was Christmas Eve a few years ago and I was standing outside fighting with the llama. As I recall, the dispute was over the agreement we made with his owner. We needed him to lead the purple king of the Magi entourage down the center aisle for our Christmas Eve service but he was one of those animal actors who didn’t want to work because we had overlooked certain details of his rider (he required Avian drinking water and we used Dasani). Being Egyptian, it’s in my blood to win such battles with the camels and llamas (the camel’s western hemisphere cousin) but my parents immigrated so their sons would never have to deal with these humped stubborn beasts!

As a child this was of course how I always dreamed I would spend my birthday. As a pastor, this was of course, how I always dreamed of being part of the Christmas Eve service. Eventually, I threatened to call his agent the diva came to reason and fulfilled his duty. This was just one episode of an entire Christmas drama production my church would put on to celebrate the birth of Jesus. For the record, those productions were done pretty well. In fact, for the size of our church, it was pretty amazing. We had a few retired men who would build these elaborate sets to convert the sanctuary into a starry Bethlehem. Almost the whole church got involved which sounds nice but when church people are involved, they usually bring their problems. Each year, there was something, who would play Mary, it’s a singing role you know, who would play Jesus, we need more choir members, more instrumentalists, “so and so” was going to be out of town and the classic, “this looks like last year”.

We would do two of them that night, and this was my fifth Christmas production at that point. I remembered my thoughts at the second service from previous years. By then it was after midnight, Christmas morning, and I would be standing in the back of the sanctuary. The drama portion had been finished, everything was quiet and we had moved into the candle lighting time before singing, “Joy to the World”. That moment used to always redeem the chaos for me but this particular year took a toll on me and I found myself wondering, “Would Jesus have celebrated His birthday (His coming) like this?” and further, “Would He want me to celebrate it this way too?”

As I recall us taking the Christmas offering in giant Christmas stockings (I kid you not), I feel confident saying that Jesus may have skipped His own party. He may have even preferred the pub across the street. I hope that doesn’t come across as offensive. While I do not deny that I am prone to exaggeration and at times feel the need to provoke and instigate, I actually thought and find little reason not to believe this. This goes beyond the fact that Jesus ate and drank with prostitutes and tax collectors (the worst of betrayers of His community), but rather I am more interested in what celebrating the coming of Jesus looks like.

I think Jesus would have us be with those we love and find ways to interact and bless those we don’t know. Celebrating Jesus’ coming is to imitate His ministry. To love, to serve, to live in humility, to pray without pretense, to intentionally sacrifice in hopes of bringing joy to the world and glory to the Father.

Tonight I won’t be fighting with a llama but I look forward in attending our Christmas Eve service tonight (it’s a different type of service at my current church). Tonight, tomorrow, and most days, I am (and hope to be) grateful for things like the season of Advent, projects like the Advent Conspiracy and with the leading of the Holy Spirit, trying to live a life that reflects Jesus’ coming. I wish the same for anyone reading this – May you be filled with the joy, hope and peace of Jesus’ coming. Merry Christmas friend.

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