Growing up in Oklahoma, we never lived close to family. The closest were my grandparents in southwestern Minnesota. My mom was in charge of our church’s music program, so Christmas almost always meant worshiping at our church and settling in at home with my parents, siblings, and family friends. If we did attempt the hours-long drive to see our extended family this time of year, we inevitably encountered some sort of weather somewhere in western Iowa and got stuck.
As an adult, Christmas with family hasn’t always been my experience either. While in Slovakia, I spent Christmas with two different families. On pastoral internship, I floated from house to house. I’ve gone to spend it with my parents, and I’ve returned to Oklahoma to celebrate at my home congregation. Sometimes we are together, but mostly we aren’t.
People have asked me over the years: “Don’t you feel like you are missing out?”
My answer is a whole-hearted, “No. I love Christmas!”
I grew up in a way that Christmas centered on worship. It didn’t matter where I was in the world, Christmas meant being in worship with others in a church packed with people. It was about singing those beautifully familiar carols – sometimes in a language that was new to me. It was about music and worship that comforted the depths of my soul. Christmas was – and is – about being with my family of Christ, worshiping our God, who became flesh and lived among us.
I am excited to spend Christmas Eve worshiping with the people of St. Paul as a Christmas family. The best part? I get to worship five times! We will hear the familiar stories of shepherds and angels, the stable and the tiny baby in the manger, and we will joyfully sing carols from the love in our hearts.
– Liesebet Gravley, resident pastor