My husband leads the music at our church, so since the day Antonella was born, I have gotten the family ready for church by myself. No matter how early I start, we are always rushing out the door to make it to church on time. This is never more true than for our annual candlelight Christmas Eve service. Getting the four kids and myself into holiday attire and out the door requires a logistical plan including charts, alarms, and baby wipes. The timing of the snack, bath, and dressing are crucial if we want to arrive at the church looking somewhat picture worthy. I know that I could simplify all this, but I want the kids to know how special the night is, how we prepare all month, all day, to worship with our family in anticipation. On this night we dress up as if we were expecting a king… because we are.
I’m afraid that a lot of this sentiment is lost in the hustle, if not for the kids, for me. I arrive at church feeling tired and stressed and wondering how my crew will sit through the dimly lit reverent service. For the last nine years, I have paced the back of the church, bouncing a baby, entertaining a toddler, one eye on the older kids left to manage by themselves. Every Christmas Eve after all the preparations, all the ironing and wiping, all the tucking in and smiling for pictures, I attend the service and find myself wondering if we should have come at all. I rarely pay attention and the carols roll off my tongue from memory more than worship. My mind is occupied with the kids, guessing which of the boys will set their hair on fire. The few moments of sincere gratitude and adoration are sandwiched between baggies of Cheerios and Crayons.
This year, we arrived traditionally late and traditionally flustered. It wasn’t until we sang “O Come O Come Emmanuel” that I looked down our row and saw my four kids, sitting and singing. And they sat and sang the whole service. My heart melted inside me, not just at the precious sight of my little ones worshipping, but also because I sensed some sort of pleasure from the Lord in the faithfulness of His people. The traditions we participate in matter to Him; He delights in them, even if our hearts are not always engaged. They are important to Him, and they are important for our children. We show up and sing and celebrate–flustered moms, tired dads, flawed families– because He is worthy, and not because we do it well.
I know the Lord does not care about what we look like or the matching sweaters, or even how quiet the kids are during the service. These things are usually a distraction and take away from the real meaning of Christmas. In this funny culture we live in, we dress up and make our kids be quiet… For Him, our King. And my flustered heart was at rest, not because my children are old enough to quietly sit through the service, but because I realized that all the years of pacing and shushing honored Him just as their songs did on this Christmas Eve.