Christmas Among Strangers and My Christmas Miracle

Christmas Eve 2007 began with Julie rising early to bake crackers, crackers I tell you, to go with the 50+ jars of jam we made to give out as Christmas gifts. More about those later, due to secrecy I couldn’t mention them on the blog. Back to crackers, Julie made all of these wonderful crackers that she bagged. The edges that we couldn’t give made up our breakfast.

Goat cheese and home made crackers is just “delish.”

At some point I dragged myself out of bed and helped Julie pack the car. We then drove 300+ miles to Philly.

Here is the dilemna we often face for Christmas. My apologies to my Catholic readers, but I did the Mass thing for 15 years and to this day just can’t do it. It works for some, but not for me, and so Mass with my family was out. We needed to kill time, but also wanted to celebrate Christmas.

The church I used to attend is a good one and a half hours away from my mom’s place, and the other churches I had attended had several elements that we were a bit uneasy about. I’ll just leave that one there.

What to do on Christmas Eve?

In a brainstorm, I thought of my friend Todd’s church The Well in Feasterville, PA. It is located on the way to my mom’s house and I trust Todd to not do anything weird, cheesy, or unorthodox. Do we have a winner?

Of course the one draw back here is that visiting a church can be one of the most unpleasant experiences you can ever go through next to the insecure hell of Junior High. Actually, visiting a church and Junior High is a really close call. Both run into the same problem of joining a tightly knit social group.

I had faith in Todd and his church though, and I did my best sell: “They hang out in a cafe sort of set up, they have art on the walls, and things are pretty laid back. Todd has a pretty solid idea of theology and ministry, and I don’t think they’ll make us stand up and introduce ourselves (the Christian equivalent of someone pulling down your pants on the play ground in Junior High).” The clincher? The cool IKEA furniture at the Well.

And so after driving 5 hours and nearly missing the unlit sign, we strolled into the Well.

Julie said, “In our five years of marriage, we have never been around so many people our age.” It was true. A room of mostly young adults, about 70 or so, stretched before us. They stood around chatting over coffee and cookies. Before we could stop and stand awkwardly, a couple swooped in to welcome us. The size of the church permits them to spot visitors pretty easily, and it worked well for us.

After a brief conversation, we moved to the cookie and coffee area where more people smoked us, the visitors, out. After some drinks and snacks, we wandered into the space where they have the church service, and then I experienced a Christmas miracle. One of my dreams came true.

Behind the rows of chairs stood rows of couches. Soft, comfy couches: the dream of many a Sunday in church. Look, maybe they don’t work for everyone, but in my little mind, a comfy couch goes swimmingly when sitting in any place for a long period of time. Couches say, “This is home, stay a while.” If I’m going to sit through a 45 minute sermon, why should I sit rigidly in some chair?

OK, this is stupid and your opinion of me may have dropped, but all the same, I practically threw myself across one of the couches. Julie played along.

And then the miracle fizzled out.

Here is why they don’t use couches in a church (besides cost and space concerns), couches are not conducive to singing. My poor diaphragm lay crunched up on the church while we sang through Christmas carols. We never stood once to sing, and so I had to sit up rather oddly to take a go at it.

Nevertheless, during the sermon, the excellent but brief sermon, the couch lived up to my expectations. It made that part of the service quite nice.

After the service I caught up with Todd and then we buzzed off to my mother and her waiting Christmas Eve dinner. Appropriately reminded of Jesus and oddly fulfilled by my time on the couch, we set off to begin the eating marathon that is Christmas in my family.