- singing in the church choir next to the old men who could really hit the low notes and teach me to sing in Swedish
- getting the brown paper bag with peanuts, an apple and a Hershey's bar after the Christmas program was done
- going to Christmas Eve (or a really early Christmas morning) service and seeing all the extended cousins
- gathering for Sunday School opening songs (and the little brown church we put our birthday money in) before going to our separate classrooms
- Fourth of July church picnics with a ice cold tank of watermelon and cans of pop
- the older generation who passed on so much wisdom and love
Tonight three other churches in Northeast Minneapolis gathered together with us for "Christmas One." It was named that because a) it's the first Sunday in Christmas, and b) four unrelated churches were gathering together in unity. One of the pastors reminded us that if we're going to accomplish what God wants us to do in our part of the city, that we can do it best by working together--that God doesn't just want each church to do their own mission. He wants us all to do His mission.
I confess that as an introvert, I don't really like large crowds of new people. I'm not a good mingler. But it was still fun to come together. We packed bags with some treats for kids in a local school. They took donations for a clothing ministry. And we all joined in worship, singing Christmas carols and partaking in the Eucharist.
Now, it's not the same as small town churches where everyone knows each other coming together, but it was still a good experience. It's not very often that four churches from differing theological backgrounds in a metro area come together for worship.
Today is also the Feast of the Holy Family--the sixth day of Christmas observed as a celebration of Jesus' earthly family. It seems a fitting celebration for today. The young, virgin Mary. The likely older Joseph. Betrothed to one another, but God steps in and throws a wrench in their plans: Mary accepts God's will and becomes pregnant with His Son. Joseph knows this won't go over well with their culture. Everyone will think she's been unfaithful and runs a high risk of being stoned to death. He's not sure he can believe what she tells him about the Holy Spirit impregnating her, but he is an honorable man who doesn't want to see her die. He intends to divorce her quietly and send her away to have the child. But God convinces him that it is all divinely orchestrated. Joseph stays with her, and they raise God's Son together.
Unity in a family is not easy. Especially when there are those "secrets"--like your virgin wife being impregnated by the Holy Spirit. Especially when you're raising the Son of God. Joseph and Mary without a doubt had their share of struggles. But they stayed together and seem to have done pretty well with raising the young Messiah.
I mean, sure He got in trouble with the law, rubbed the religious leaders the wrong way, and disobeyed social norms (like not talking to women and avoiding lepers). But otherwise He turned out all right. He did save the world, after all.