I was having a conversation with another minister. Us minister types like to use one another to talk shop, and to say the things we would never say to others. Well here I was speaking to this minister and he says, “You know what? Our churches about to get fuller because for some reason people always come around the holidays. I don’t have any idea how to bring them in at other times, but around the holidays there they are.”
He said that like it was a bad thing, and I am not sure that it is. Just today I have been on the phone with some people who know this time of year as a hard time of year. It is hard because they have lost loved ones. Some of have lost children, others have lost parents, and they are learning to cope. It is hard to make it to a time of year when we are used to having someone in our life and that person is gone. Our memories are all we have left, and there will not be new memories with that person, and that is hard. The grief, even if it had been well managed, can come back then. And I wonder if that is why some people come to church around this time of year.
Do some come back because they are looking for support, friends, maybe even family? Maybe they do not know that is what they are doing, but it is part of it. And yes, us minister types can get frustrated by this because we wish that they would be there year round, but we probably should not be. It is best to love in these next couple of weeks. I know I am praying that there might be more love in me, more love for the people that might grace the doors of the church, more love for the people who are always there but are hurting more at this time, and more love for the larger family of God that congregates to hear the old story again.
At her best the church is a place where people who are in need can come in and be loved. Now I am the first to admit the church is rarely at her best, but the church is broken too. Therefore, while the church is not always at her best, the church is true when it is full of people who are hurting and who need to know they are not hurting alone. Only God is good, the church is still being reworked and reformed by that good God. But what I do know is that church is better with people together. Church is better when the huddled mass of broken humanity that we are come together and believe that with God we can still find wholeness and love in a world in which there is pain and grief. Mind you that is church that is better, not church that is at its best, but better is something.
I suppose, in short, I am praying that my church, and your church if you have one, might become better this holiday season. Not trying to guilt the people that enter our doors we would never otherwise see to come throughout the year, but trying to see them as those that are seeking solace in a difficult world. After all, that is what the miracle of the Incarnation, God becoming human, is all about. We are not alone! May all churches become places where those who feel alone at this time of year find they are not alone. And who knows? Maybe they will come back because they discovered the wider net of love that they needed.