A God Prank On Christmas Eve

It was 12:58 a.m. when I walked into the house.

Christmas Eve at Trinity was over. Or at least that’s what I thought.

About an hour later, our house phone rang. 

It was the security company for the church. Multiple alarms were going off at the front entrance of the building. I had no clue, so I asked for the police to be called, and told the security dispatcher I was in route. 

Who needs sleep on Christmas Eve? Maybe, I would catch a glimpse of Santa.

When I arrived at Trinity, I found no police cars. Instead, I was greeted by three fire trucks. 

The building that was dark on the interior when I had left it—now had some lights on. A fireman who was driving one of the trucks spotted me and asked if I was responding to the alarm.

My day at Trinity started around 6:30 a.m. I wasn’t on site long. Basically, I opened the building, and then departed for some Santa errands.. 

I returned after 9 to stage chairs in the Welcome Center along with a few other chores. My pal, Jack Berry, an ex-officio member of the altar guild was there to help his wife with some details for communion prep. He also helped with the chairs. In Jack’s profession, he knows quite a bit about staging chairs.

Around 1, I was heading back home for a nap, a shower, and an assault on the head cold that ambushed me.

 I was back at Trinity a little after 3. My mental notes kicked in on some final details. Then, I had orders to save a pew. I wasn’t the only pew holder following orders.

At 4 p.m. the family service started. The Sanctuary was packed and some of the overflow seating in the Welcome Center was taken.

It appears that the family service has become our most popular offering.  And, the demographics show that more than young parents with their children attend.  

We had a tiny technology glitch in the Welcome Center with the monitors—we had sound, but no video.  Our youth director, Bryce Miller, coaxed the technology gremlins to cooperate—after all, this is Christmas Eve.

Soon the video feed was restored. I camped out in the Welcome Center. It was interesting to watch the pattern of meltdowns from youngsters who had already made their parents weary. 

One young lady had insisted on wearing her tap shoes. She was a perfect match for the ceramic tile floor. She clicked and clacked so loudly that her apologetic father picked her up quickly.

Squirmy boys needed to roam. Parents attempted to corral them, but exploring the Welcome Center, and its perimeter hallways was more intriguing.

We had one big crash when the metal top of a trash can accidentally tumbled to the tile. If you had been dozing, you were now fully alert.

There was one miraculous escape. 

The young daughter of our associate pastor scrambled out of the Welcome Center. She made it all the way up the center aisle of the Sanctuary to the chancel. At this stage of the service,  her father was leading the last part of the worship. 

Like all good fathers, Hung Su didn’t miss a beat. He swooped her up in his arms, and held her until the end.

Somehow, the clock hands started moving in his favor, and eventually this service was coming to an end.

A family dinner kept me from attending the Modern worship service at 6, but I was around for the next two traditional services.

There was a large crowd for the 8:30 service. When that service was completed, this crowd didn’t want to go home.   They stayed a long, long time as they chatted in the Sanctuary and Welcome Center with great enthusiasm.

Luckily, we didn’t have to pull out any fire extinguishers with the candle lighting. Although, I think the congregation might be surprised at the mess the wax drippings cause for pew cushions and carpet.

A small crowd was present for the 11 o’clock service. These die hards love this late worship setting.

Soon, the last verse of “Joy To The World” was being sung in candlelight, and the final service for Christmas Eve was over.

Ronnie Johnson, our chief building caretaker, worked with staff and volunteers to try to bring some composure back to the worked over Sanctuary. We made progress, but we left the details to correct before Sunday’s services arrived. 

I think the building wanted us out too. I sensed the building was weary from the intrusion of four straight services. It is a tough old building, but it needs its rest too. 

Ronnie and I had given the building a thorough security walk before we left. When I set the alarm, I knew the building was tight.

About an hour after my departure,  the interior sprinkler system (our fire protection) had other ideas. Something related to water flow inside its pipes and controls wasn’t happy. So, the appropriate sensor tripped, the alarm signaled trouble, and our fire department responded.

Personally, I think this was a God prank. 

Clearly, God wanted to entertain his new born son. Three fire trucks, with shiny equipment, flashing lights, and firemen decked out in all their protective gear walking around a church building—that’s quite a show for an infant.

Maybe someday, I’ll have a little chat with God about how his entertainment choice only wears down weary old grumps like me.

The firefighters outlined the steps I needed to take for our local service company to make the repair. I thanked them for their help, and wished them a Merry Christmas and a quiet rest of the night.

I contacted our service provider for the sprinkler system, and we mapped out a plan for correcting the problem. By e-mail, I notified the staff and key church leadership about this God prank. 

Then, I retraced my steps to turn off lights and re-lock doors.

I reset the security system and headed back to my car. 

Clearly, we had been lucky, no fire, and no sprinkler heads emptied.

During this season of Advent, my brain has been holding on to one line of lyric from the hymn “O Holy Night.” The line—“A thrill of hope the weary world rejoices” has been pinging around quite a bit. But, I will also confess so has “Mele Kalikimaka.”

At this stage in my old, old life I don’t think I have witnessed such a weary world. I sometimes wonder what might bring us to our senses. 

I think it is going to come down to this—finding that thrill of hope, and never letting go of it.

Finding that hope will depend upon the flicker of light in our hearts. That flicker of light  must be an eternal, action hope. Hope is potentially rekindled every Christmas, but in truth hope needs to be reborn everyday.

And that is why we should hold on to John 1:5 every second of the day:  The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.

That light is the hope for a weary world. 

That light if we allow it can overcome a weary world.

And I think, you, me, we know that, but we must pursue the action found in that light everyday.

Merry Christmas!

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