Worshipping With An Older Crowd

On Christmas Eve, Carol and I went to one of the worship services offered by our oldest daughter’s church. It was nice. The Christmas carols were upgraded with a more contemporary version that were close enough to the original to still be recognizable. The praise team offered a hint of Trans-Siberian Orchestra to the melodies. We felt sufficiently connected to the Reason for the Season and hip at the same time.

The attenders were a mix of ages, young and old, visitors and regulars, many enjoying a cup of hot chocolate or coffee in the sanctuary that, thankfully, does not have carpet. (My mom would cringe at the thought of bringing a cup of coffee into the church service. Of course, she and Dad always drank Maxwell House from coffee mug in the kitchen at the table…with Coffee Rich creamer and a teaspoon of sugar. Never in church where the careless singing of choruses might lead to a drip on “Break Thou The Bread of Life” in the hymnbook. I digress!)

With Christmas Day being on Sunday this year, I decided to venture to downtown Colorado Springs and attend Sunday morning worship at First Baptist, a congregation 150 years old whose pastor and associate I’ve come to know. Although First Baptist is an older congregation, it is a church that has a number of young families, young adults, some racial diversity, as well as a mix of well-dressed adults and others in overalls and jeans. The small congregation in the smaller town of Simla on the Colorado eastern plains, where I speak once or twice a month, was not having a service this Sunday. Two of the families were traveling out-of-state, which would have left the number of us in attendance less than the fingers on two hands.

The service at First Baptist was great. They engineered the playing of “Silent Night” on handbells BY THE CONGREGATION. Very creative. The carols that were sung were traditional, accompanied by piano and organ. A fifthysomething woman stood up and interrupted the sermon to admonish the congregation about the decorated tree, a sign of apostasy and worldliness. The associate pastor who was speaking let her say her piece for 3-4 minutes, before she was lovingly helped to the exit. The pastor masterly transitioned from the disturbance back to the delivery, even drawing something from the lady’s rant into the morning message. It was so smooth, I wondered if it had been rehearsed, but when I could still hear the lady going-off from outside the building, I knew it hadn’t been.

The Sunday morning gathering was noticeably older than the Christmas Eve crowd. I mean, there was no one under thirty, except the associate pastor, and the average age was higher than the speed limit on I-25. You see, Christmas Eve is about families being together in a service as a part of the family’s activities. Christmas Day, when it occurs on Sunday, is about church families being together. The diversity of ages at one is noticeably missing at the other. Christmas Eve worship is about a church putting its best foot forward: quality music, free chocolate, a brief pertinent message, and clear directions on where the restrooms are located. Sunday Christmas Day worship is about being with others who have been travelers on the same spiritual journey with the worshipper, familiar faces who one would go to Cracker Barrel with after church…if it was open.

To be clear, First Baptist also had a Christmas Eve service the previous day at 6pm. Although I wasn’t at that one, I’m sure that’s where the young families had gathered. The Christmas Day crowd was composed of those who had not been awakened at an early hour by young ones, although several may have arisen due to their aches and pains.

Interesting. Going to church on Christmas Eve has become the tradition, and yet, Christmas Day is traditional. Christmas Eve is more fashionable and festive; Christmas Sunday is about the fellowship. Neither is better than the other and both meet a need.

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