Last night was silent, God.
The sanctuary was not challenging the fire marshall’s capacity limit.
There were no squeals of delight as members hugged children of the church visiting from out of town.
Voices husky with emotion did not meld in a chorus of praise, holding candles aloft.
Even so your people, your ministers, were – are – exhausted,
weary from all their efforts to proclaim the Incarnation
and invite people into hope and connection during this season of physical distancing.
Disillusioned from ongoing critiques: Why aren’t you doing more? Why can’t we gather?
Tired from picking up new skills and pausing the aspects of ministry that give them life.
Depleted from dealing with personal pandemic challenges in their homes
and separation from loved ones who live elsewhere.
What was the silence like for Mary on the night she gave birth?
Was it hazy, spent as she was from labor?
Was it welcome, after the whispers of others about her baby’s paternity?
Was it anxious, full of spiraling thoughts about the singular experience of parenting the Savior?
Was it lonely, cut off as she was from family other than Joseph?
All we know for sure is that its observance is holy for us,
however Mary experienced the nativity.
Give, then, your ministers peace in knowing that they have done their best
to let things be according to your Word, your love with skin on.
They have been faithful in the nine months leading up to the too-silent night,
creating space sacred for others
while holding the line on precautions out of abundant care.
Put alleluias in their hearts
and sing them into deep, ample rest with angelic lullabies
so that they might be ready to keep telling us all
what the birth, life, and death of your Son means for us and for our world.
Laura Stephens-Reed is a clergy and congregational coach working with ministers and churches across the ecumenical spectrum. Having served in a variety of pastoral roles and denominations, she is primarily affiliated with the Alliance of Baptists and the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship and has ministerial standing in the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ). Based in northwest Alabama (United States), Laura is married to a United Methodist pastor, and they have a seven-year-old son. She blogs weekly at laurastephensreed.com.
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