This Christmas Eve we gathered outside the chapel in subzero temps under the stars that decorated Christ’s birth. In the midst of a global pandemic, we could not gather inside the chapel together. Still we came, the few but faithful, to receive the Holy Eucharist while trembling in the cold, and perhaps trembling with anxiety in these uncertain days.
The cold wind made us mindful of God’s warm love. The twinkling lights reminded us that “in the dark streets shineth the Everlasting Light.” The fresh blanket of snow preached a homily from Isaiah 1:18, “Though your sins be as scarlet, [because of Christ’s coming] they shall be as white as snow.” And the Bread and the Cup are Christ’s gift to sustain the church in the long interval between His two advents—his coming to Bethlehem as an infant Savior and his coming again someday as Judge and King.
He came down from Heaven in the incarnation to meet weak and wounded sinners where we’re at. Then he invites us to embrace the upward call of discipleship in the Kingdom. Standing in front of the chapel steps, we remembered this upward call as we walked up these cold steps to receive the Christmas Eucharist.
Each step was marked by one of the beatitudes, a particular quality of the Kingdom we press on toward. We walked slowly, one by one, upward — a silent prayer on every step for more of the Kingdom to be manifest in our lives this new year.
The solemn moment was not without its levity and earthiness as well. Just 10 minutes before our communion service was to start, someone accidentally drove off with the only key to the sacristy where we had the communion elements all prepared. So, just as animals hallowed the holy child in the manger that first Christmas, so we had animal crackers serving as the body of Christ for this special communion. O Holy Night! O Scandalous night!
Now let us continue to pursue the upward call of discipleship in Christ Jesus!
“But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” (Phil 3:13).