Tonight at church we will celebrate the Sounds of the Season, an annual opportunity for gifted members in the congregation to share their musical and dramatic talents with the rest of us who are great at being in the audience. A pot luck dinner will proceed the festivities, we are Methodist after all, and I was charged with making the main dish. Pulled pork feeds many and seemed like a great choice, until I realized I had to run in to the church at 6:30 am to get it started. The temperature has dropped, it is dark and only a few cars joined me as I drove in my chilly car to complete this task, I was I was less than excited about. Yet the quiet surrounded me, I found myself considering the real sounds of the season.
Actually the day began with the thud from a boy jumping from his bed onto the floor, the rustling of the search for slippers and his robe and then the slap on walls as he hit light switches, searching for whatever his elf had done while he slept. “Oh gran, look what elfie did! He is so rotten!” He followed the path of all his matchbox cars as they snaked through the dining room, over chairs and under the table and then into the living room, making car noises that little boys seem wired to create. Giggles of delight filled the morning quiet of our still sleeping home as he found the tiny wind-up car, twisting the gear, raving it up to race about the table and fall to the floor, eliciting ever louder chortles. This is the sound of the season.
But maybe the sounds began last night as we traveled across town to see a living nativity displayed by another church. Slurping hot cocoa, nestled under a blanket, wearing pjs and a robe shared with us by a dear friend, he asked about each scene and then told us, “This is true.” I can’t imagine a more beautiful sound than a child professing faith. He asked where other characters were, where was David, where was Goliath. He knows bible stories. The sounds of his Sunday school teachers joined us as we meandered through the scapes, the teachings have settled into his soul, they come forth when he needs those examples. Those are the sounds of the season.
Still with all of this, I was tired and a bit cranky, not enough coffee and there were toy cars all over my house, these issues were clouding my mind. The drive is only 10 minutes, barely time to let loose my thoughts of home before I reach the turn in for the parking lot. Yet the solitude of the drive made my travels more meaningful, I more quickly realized the quiet was refreshing, was welcome. I forget to list out my tasks for the day and instead considered the peacefulness of early mornings, the focus required for dark driving. As I neared the church, the lights, strung all along the circle drive and up to the busy road that leads into the parking lot. The front windows were awash with light, welcoming warmth on this cold morning. Awestruck, I followed the illuminated path, diving deeper into the silence as the gentleness of the spirit guided me. The quiet is the sound of the season.
Entering the building, fumbling with the key I have been entrusted with, the smooth slide into the lock, tumblers falling, rotating, each meaning that this church is home to me, isn’t home where you have the key to enter? Beeps, chirps as I push buttons to set the temperature of the oven, the soft separation of suction as the refrigerator opens, the crackle of foil as I remove the pans and the scratch of pas as I push them onto the racks. A quiet catch as the oven doors close, the sounds of this season when later tonight this meal will feed many who gather in communion and fellowship, the sounds of laughter and chatter echoing about the room, silverware clinking and children racing with spontaneous games of tag.
Retrieving the wooden tree filled with handcrafted ornaments made by a group of friends to sell for our first alternative Christmas market, proceeds benefiting two local organizations, I listened as the keychains rattled against each other, as the last bit of the string of lights bumped along the ground. The pop of electrical connection, the tree lit up, shining months of dreams and hopes for those less fortunate, our desire to bridge some gaps between our congregation and our neighbors, I feel in love with the ministry of this church all over again.
Snip, snip, chop, drip, I heard the only other person inside the walls of the church at this early hour, the woman who hosts our coffee and donut/fruit bar each Sunday. alone under the glow of all the Christmas lights, she busied about making coffee and setting up trays of grapes that will be accessed by the littlest hands and the oldest alike, she is a mainstay, a fixture that most may not even see anymore. Yet, here on this morning I witnessed her ministry, a radical hospitality that begins each week in the quiet and solitude of this building that will soon be bustling. I heard the sounds of the season as she set out creamer and sugar, as she arranged napkins.
I don’t know what tonight will bring, I can imagine the music will move my soul and that the children will delight in the puppet show. Yet already I am awakening to the sounds of this season, the reminders that a baby was born in the chaos of a stable and brought us peace. May you find peace this season in the midst of the noise, friends.