And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth.— John 1:14, NRSV
It seems an impossible task to be asked to pray. There is a cacophony of noise surrounding me. Two kiddos are fighting over a cookie … there is laughter behind me as a story is shared … I can hear coffee running into a carafe a few feet away … a baby fusses in her mother’s arms … two pre-teens are giggling at something only they find to be funny … and the lively buzz of a church narthex five minutes before the start of worship permeates everything. Yes, I am standing in St. Peter’s narthex at about 10:40 a.m. waiting to offer prayer for the choir and a couple of worship leaders.
Did I write “an impossible task to be asked to pray”? What I really meant was that it seemed an impossible task to expect the choir to be able to focus on prayer in such a setting. And yet … and yet … we tried, and hopefully succeeded. This drama is re-enacted virtually every Sunday around 10:40 in our narthex. I don’t share this as a complaint. We don’t announce this or shush people into silence who are near to us. We simply gather to pray in the midst of a rather vibrant meteor storm of sound. Maybe if we do this long enough, people will notice … and dare to join us. Maybe not. Achieving a perfectly prayerful setting is not the goal. We simply observe what we think is a helpful discipline … modeling what seems to be good practice. It is up to God to move the hearts of others to join us.
Is that not the call of every Christian? The summons to model faith in a world whose cacophony of sounds is far more challenging that our narthex on a Sunday morning. For there is no hate speech within earshot in our narthex … nor gun shots … nor racist or misogynistic speech … nor hatred demanding to be expressed. Simply people who are celebrating fellowship, and parenting, and friendship.
So … maybe our call in a pluralistic world is not to cry foul at every offense that rubs one of our nerves a little raw. Maybe our call is to model speech and gestures and actions that embody the faith God has given us … whether those words and gestures and actions are immediately noticed by the world around us … or not. The Bible promises us that the Word takes on flesh and blood and lives among us. Are we not people of the Word? Do we not trust God to bring to fruition the promises made to us? Of course, we do.
So, celebrate the wonderful chaos of Christmas Eve morning as you buy a last-minute present … or pick up that card for a loved one you forgot about … or bake yet another batch of Christmas cookies … or fuss over what your kids will (or more likely will not) wear to Christmas Eve services. It is all good. It is God’s marvelous ongoing creation stretching and straining the world around you, as it takes on flesh at this particular moment in time.