Monday, December 25, 2006

Christmas Eve Countdown

It's early Christmas morning as I write. Not a creature is strirring except for some silly blogger at the keyboard.

Yesterday was both a Sunday and a Christmas Eve. What was that like?

5:50 AM

Alarm goes off. I punch it once for 8 more minutes. Then shower and dress in the bathroom (to avoid waking my wife, Lynann).


Check email.


Breakfast. Cereal, no toast.


Wake up Lynann.


Out the door. I arrive at 7:25 (I'm blessed to live nearby). I park at Long Dragon Realty, with whom we have a parking arraingment. Ironically, I actually walk a few steps through the parking lot of the Nazarene church on the way to the Baptist Church. Well, we needed the parking more than they did, and we asked first.

First, I do the "wallk through" of my office. Hmm, no red light on my phone. No surprises this morning. Pick up the digital camera we use to take snaps of guests, the new member certificates and a letter I need to give to a member of the church.

Over to the sanctuary. Stash the camera, put the member certs in place. OK, screen is already down. Turn on the computer and the projector. Yoko Mizuno, our accompanist, is already practicing (she's sure intent--she doesn't even notice I'm here). A couple of updates on the Welcome to Worship PowerPoint we have running when people come in. Later, our worship Director, Matt Cooper will bring up the song program.

OK, things here are fine.


Out in the courtyard I have a brief chat with Pastor Sam. A couple of details (he's doing annoucements) and some shooting the breeze. Somehow we get on to the difference between Menorahs and Hannahkiahs.


Some people are already in the Pacesetter class, so I go and visit for a while. A member tells how a grandchild in New York is getting better medical treatment, an answer to prayer. Mostly chitchat and hugs and "Merry Christmas."


A teacher comes with his wife and sister-in-law. They're celebrating an unlikely joy: the sister-in-law came off probation that week. Jail was the best thing that ever happened to her faith.

His classroom had been painted the day before, and looks great. (It had been the ugliest room on campus.)


I visit around to other classes. I also stop by the gym where Rock Mountain Baptist Church (Mandarin-speaking) is setting up. I chat with Pastor Calvin Hsu for a few minutes about the service tonight.


A few minutes of prayer.


Back in the courtyard. The California chill is coming off. The high on Christmas Eve will be 75F. (Last year is was a bizarre 90F on Christmas Eve). I drop off the letter I mentioned earlier.


I run into the lady I'm baptizing today. She clutches her bag of items to use for the baptism. Today she is actually finishing her membership class.


She's the only one in the class, and we don't have much to finish. We meet in my office and finish with what I jokingly call "the grand tour" of the campus. She'd never been in the gym and was amazed at how large it is. We finish in the hall behind the santuary and I show her where we'll be for baptisms.


I check in with Matt. Everything's OK. Ismael sets me with with my wireless mike and tests me on my miniscule knowledge of Spanish, which is part of his Sunday routine. We do sound checks. I realize we need another mike for the communion table. (The new Indonesian family is doing the last advent candle.) Ish takes care of it.


A few classes are getting out. I visit with some people in the courtyard, and then head to the men's changing room to get ready for baptisms. I don't like wearing those baptismal waders, so I change into a swimsuit and over that the big black baptismal robe.


Pastor Angela and I meet with those being baptized. She has four kids and youth, I have the one adult. And Pastor Calvin has one adult being baptized.


We're all in place. Sam does announcements. I baptize my lady, a woman who had done everything spiritually: from Mormon to Jehovah's Witnesses to New Age and now, she's found her rest in Jesus.

Dash to the changing room, back into the suit. Out in time for the Sulistios doing the "Peace Candle." Singing, prayer, choir, preach. "What Time is Christmas?" is my topic. The offering, more singing, receive new members. We end with everyone, a packed house, standing as we sing "The Hallelujah Chorus."


I help Brendan put some things in place for tonight. We wheel over the cart with the candles.


Go home. I change, veg out for a while watching the Patriots take down the Jags in Jacksonville. Lynann and my son dash out to get Chinese food and a crown roast (for tomorrow) from Von's.




Nap. Don't nap too well. Excited about tonight. And then a "pastor call" ends the nap.


Check email. Yes, again.


Back at the church. The Christmas eve service is at 5:30. We hit a few "tecno-burps" in preparation, but get it resolved. Lotsa of unfamiliar faces.


After the brass and piano trio finishes, we're off. A song partly in Spanish: "Que Nino este es?" Traditional Christmas eve fair, but "O Holy Night" in Mandarin (Rock Mountain Choir) and a Kachin Christmas song (complete with cymbal and dance!) (We are also home of the Kachin Baptist Church, a Burmese ethnic group.)

My message: "The Purpose of Christmas." Jesus cames to erase misconceptions about God, to show the love of God and to enable us to have a relationship with God. Our choir sings a real show stopper: "Joy, Joy" and Matt has a great solo in it. Silent Night and candles held high. Merry Christmas!


Home to pick up ham and scalloped potatoes. Oh, and a plate of cookies. Take off the jacket and tie, put on a sweater. Over to my son's girlfiend's house for a Christmas eve dinner. We bow out a little before 9. Lynann sees that both her husband and daughter seem beat.


We all open one present. Lynann wants to watch "Scrooge" (the 1951 version with Alistair Sim, the best). We have it on DVD, but by 10:15, I'm out before the Ghost of Christmas past can ever show up.

Merry Christmas to all.

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