I don’t know exactly how many people will worship at LPC tomorrow and we can say, rightly so, that it is not about numbers and that it’s up to God. And it is. But I do know that many of you have been praying about those in your life who might not otherwise worship on Christmas Eve and who you wish to have join you.
I know that cards have been sent and invitations extended. I know that numbers do matter when they represent named human persons who will see, hear and experience the Good News of great joy as we gather in worship. And I know that our really good office staff has to make a guess as to how many bulletins to prepare and the Worship Committee has to decide how many candle holders to have ready.
So, we figure that there may be between 150 and 200 at the first service and between 500 and 600 combined the second and third services.
And we know, and you know, that we will be a crazy quilt mix of people. Some will come expecting and receiving what has come to be the centerpiece of their Advent and Christmas celebration. They will hear familiar carols, magnificent anthems and the story that begins, “In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus…”
Others will come because, well, it’s what you do on Christmas Eve. We’d no more not come to worship than we’d not put out milk and cookies for Santa.
Among us will be those who might think of a hundred better places to be. Worshipers who come to keep family peace or appease an insistent mother-in-law. Some will come already having imbibed of a bit too much Christmas cheer.
For some the year past has been more a year of fear than hope and it is that fear that they meet in the dark streets of Bethlehem.
Some of us will wear Christmas dresses and neckties that play “Joy to the World” or “Santa Claus is Coming to Town.” Others will wear faded blue jeans or worn out sweats. Wardrobe will not be a good indicator of whether or not this person or that has truly “put on Christ.” (Galatians 3:26-28)
Over half the worshipers at LPC Saturday evening will not have been a regular part of our worshiping community during the previous twelve months. We will have out of town family members, invited guests and curious, not-exactly-sure-why-they-came strangers in our midst.
Yes, there will be those who come to worship the new born King and those who know him not at all. It is not for us to determine who falls into what category. It is for us to who know Him to welcome in His name every single person who joins us – lost sheep, returning prodigals, courageous saints and faithful followers; each one welcomed as an honored guest.
We will sing of good news of a great joy in those familiar carols, by human voice and musical instrument the gospel will be sung aloud, in Scripture read and the Word proclaimed we will hear again that to us is born this day in the City of David a savior who is Christ the Lord. We will be invited by Him to his Table to share bread and cup, body and blood, the joyful feast of the people of God. The invitation will be given to all who believe to humbly come. None of us our worthy to come; we will pray that for all who do come this small token of a dinner will be an outward sign of an inward grace.
But for some the gospel will not just be heard, seen and experienced by what happens in the Chancel and at the Table. It will be proclaimed by a welcome and a smile in the Narthex, a shared hymnal or bulletin – a kind word – in the pew.
That first Christmas the good news was told by lowly shepherds, wealthy magi, and a host of heaven’s angels. Sort of a crazy quilt cast of characters.
Tomorrow evening the good news will be told by choir members and musicians, readers and pastors, ushers and elders. And it will be told as we, each one of us in this crazy quilt cast of characters called LPC, welcomes the stranger into the warmth of His family. Pray that tomorrow evening Christ will enter some human heart for the very first time – by whatever means He chooses.