I'm a pastor. I wear the funny shirt, the robe, the stoles. I say the P parts of the liturgy. I sit up front. And I love it.
But one thing I don't love so much is that I no longer sit alongside my wife and children in worship. Before I was ordained, I loved worshiping with my children. Yet I no longer worship alongside them, hold worship books for them, whisper instructions to them, or help them with their Bible story coloring sheet. I do enjoy seeing their faces as they worship from my seat up front, and I cherish the opportunity to declare the forgiveness of their sins, and to place the sacrament in their hands. But still … I'm no longer there, by their side, holding them, whispering to them, coloring with them.
Tonight I received a special gift as I attended my wife's cousin's wedding (yes, a wedding scheduled on the Monday after Christmas!). There we were, Mommy, Daddy, and our two daughters sitting in the pew together (Naaman, our two year-old son, was more than glad to romp around in the nursery. We were more than glad to let him!). I held my 3 year-old up high so she could see the pastor's gestures as he said the Words of Institution. I took her to the bathroom during the Prayers of the Church. I struggled to hold a hymnal as I held her in my arms. Yes, by doing these things, I wasn't tuned into every moment of the liturgy. But I was participating and praying with my children, gathering with them around the table and at the foot of the cross, held with them within the Body of Christ and surrounded by the sights and sounds of God's people at worship. It was a beautiful thing.
And so tonight I am grateful for this wonderful Christmas gift – the gift to worship as a family. I wouldn't give up my job for anything. I love what I do. But I also love when I get the chance to worship alongside my wife and children. Thank you, Ben and Marissa, for getting married this evening. You've given me a wonderful gift!
Blessings to Ben and Marissa, and to all in this Christmas season.