I’m baaaaack! Oh man, am I enjoying this time of the year. I’ve been trying to live in the moment and enjoy the heck out of every single second. I feel like I haven’t posted in forever! Which is why today I want to talk about surviving Christmas Eve: church service edition.
It’s that time of year again. The holidays are here. People are stressed. So many things to do, so little time to get it all done.
Everyone wants everything to be perfect. They want their holiday to look like the perfect family tradition. They want it to be social media worthy. A professionally decorated Christmas tree. Beautifully wrapped gifts spilling out from under the tree. A rustic dining room table with an elegant table scape.
As if this time of year wasn’t stressful enough, some families like to add a little more pressure to the situation by forcing the issue of church. No one likes being forced to go to church. As an adult, it’s one thing that can make you feel like a child. And not in a good way.
I’m not a fan of the forced church march. I don’t think that benefits anyone. I get that as a parent, you make the rules for those who live under your roof. And I understand that sometimes you have to do it to make the relatives happy.
I was a confirmation leader for four years. I watched as parents dropped their kids off at church then sped out of the parking lot. They had things to get done rather than hanging around church and taking part in many of the groups and classes it offered. They wanted their kids to get confirmed because it was “what you did” or to “please their parents”. Meanwhile, the kids were wondering why their parents were making them get confirmed when the family never went to church. Kids realize how ridiculous this concept is. The jig is up, parents!
Personally, I love going to church on Christmas Eve. I love the music. I love all the people. I love extended families all being together. I love mini reunions of people that haven’t seen each other in ages. I love the excitement of the holiday.
If you don’t share my excitement, then I’d like to offer some tips on surviving Christmas Eve: church service edition. Growing up I had to go to a Catholic and a Lutheran church because my parents were maniacs. They couldn’t agree on which religion to raise us, so they both took us to their church.
There were times I questioned why I had to go to two churches every week. Oh, did I not make the clear? Yeah, my parents made me go to a Catholic and a Lutheran church every single week, not just at Christmas and Easter.
I loved so many things about each church that it outweighed the lunacy that was my parents making me go to two churches. And over the years I’ve learned to laugh at their church craziness.
Not everyone looks forward to going to church like I do. Which is why I’m writing this post. I will even grab some church bulletins for you if you’re trying to make your family think that you went to church. Just let me know before noon on Christmas Eve. Also, you must live near me if you want the bulletin hand delivered. Or I can text it to you, but that may be harder to prove to your family that you were in church earlier that day.
One of the reasons I love Christmas Eve service is because I grew up at one of the greatest church – Mount Olivet. Mount Olivet is everything that is right about church.
Fun For Everyone. One thing I love about Mount Olivet is that is has so many events for people of all ages to get involved. I grew up going there. I went to Sunday School. I was on youth counsel. I was a camper and a camp counselor. I spent Sunday nights at their Hi-League youth group. I was in the choir. I was married there. So I’ve taken part in many things they have to offer. And still I haven’t scratched the service of all the ways you can get involved at Mount Olivet. I love Mount Olivet Christmas Eve so much that I go there rather than my own church.
Aside from the great programs they offer Mount Olivet does so much right. It starts and ends on time. As my dad would say and do, “You can set your clock by them.” When the red light by the Exit sign goes on, the service is about to start. They’re like a well oiled machine. I had one pastor at my current church who always started service late. Always. We knew that if service didn’t start on time, it was because he was preaching. But when you are trying to get 14,000 people through your church services on Christmas Eve, precision is key.
Dim Lights Probably my favorite thing about Mount Olivet is something that I’ve never experienced at any other church I’ve attended. They dim the lights during the sermon. Genius! It’s perfect for bowing your head, becoming one with the sermon, and taking a little snooze. I don’t know why they do it or how it started but they’ve been doing it for as long as I can remember and I’ve been going there since grade school.
I was in the Cathedral Choir at Mount Olivet which is for 9th through 12th graders. When we’d sing at church, we’d sit in the choir loft. When the lights were dimmed at sermon time, many of the kids in the choir would sprawl out for a little rest and relaxation.
That voice. Pastor Youngdahl always gave the Christmas Eve sermon. His voice was unmistakable. It was commanding yet comforting. It was like God himself was talking to you.
This will be the sixth Christmas Eve service since Pastor Youngdahl passed away. It’s the one thing I still have the hardest time adjusting to.
Extra touches. Mount Olivet has a huge crew making everything run smoothly. They have tons of ushers making sure that people can find seats. When they pass the collection plate it’s like watching a precision dance line. They’re so well choreographed. They have cops directing parking lot traffic so everyone can get out of the parking lot and on with their evening smoothly.
If you’re heading to church with the fam and aren’t looking forward to it, I have some advice for you. Think of me as your Christmas Eve church service strategist.
Pass the Flask If you’re dreading going to church with your family, maybe it’s because you’re too sober. Consider making a drinking game out of the service.
I have never brought alcohol to church to get my husband through usher duty but never for Christmas Eve. We all know that Jesus turned water into wine at that wedding so he clearly likes a party. And since this his is birthday party, how can he not love the addition of alcohol?!
My husband and I used to joke about making a drinking game out of our pastor (not at Mount Olivet, but our church) adjusting his glasses. He used to do it obsessively. It was like a tell in poker. Or like when a comedian does something that it supposed to signal you to laugh at their punchline. I don’t remember what they call that. Maybe it’s also called a tell.
I’ve never been much of a drinker. Although I have had more alcohol in the last month than I have during all the years I’ve been of legal drinking age. So maybe I’m just starting to hit my stride.
My mom never drank. She had migraines most of her life so like me, avoided alcohol. Although once I went over to her house and found her sleeping on the couch. Seems she started cleaning the refrigerator, found some wine leftover from the holidays, got into that and then passed out on the couch. It was hilarious. She had all of the contents of the refrigerator on the counters and table. And it didn’t look like she was going to be getting anything put back in the fridge anytime soon.
My dad only drank when we went out to dinner or when we had out of town company. And even then he’d only have two or three drinks.
I’ve never brought alcohol to Christmas Eve service because there is too much for me to focus on. Alcohol would just distract me from that. But for you, it might be just the thing you need to take the edge off family church time.
Improv I love saying ridiculous things. I especially love doing it around people that I’ll probably never see again. Who doesn’t love to overhear random stuff that makes you wonder what on earth they’re talking about or how that conversation is going to end?! It works best when you know the other person will play along with you. I can always count on my husband to improv with me. Here are some improv prompts to get your going…
- Congratulations on creating an app that is going to take down Facebook.
- What did you do with that embezzlement money?
- I’m glad the workhouse gave you a day pass to spend Christmas with us.
- What did you think would happen when you married your step sister?
Conversation starters, I don’t like conflict. I avoid it at all costs. But sometimes, you need a way to get out of a conversation. Steering the conversation towards a controversial topic can be a quick and easy way to start a fight so you can walk away in a huff. I can’t be the only person that does that, can I?!
Politics, reproductive rights, taxes, gun control, and the death penalty are all pretty good conversation topics if you want to ensure conflict. I’d stay away from these topics during church as it could be hard to make a get away during a packed house. Then you’re left to fester until the service is over.
Here are some conversation topics that probably won’t start an instant fight but will definitely get people talking, good, bad, or otherwise. Bonus, they are more suitable in church (when you’re waiting for it to start, not when the collection plate is being passed around:)
- man buns
- vegetarians don’t like animals
- banning trench coats, hats, bandanas at banks to discourage bank robberies (because it works so well to tell robbers they can’t bring guns into banks)
- men’s rights
- your second toe should be longer than the first
- people who schedule business meetings on Friday afternoons are Satan
- why you should or shouldn’t be in charge of more stuff
- why are scientists so cocky and braggy
- why Uber can charge for a ride to the airport but you can’t ask grandma to pay when you take her to the airport
Sing like Julia Childs. Sometimes I like to sing with a loud, fake voice. It makes my sister laugh. I haven’t done it in a few years so I might spring it on her. I can’t sing any other way. So if I do this, I have to go all in.
Clown car. See how many people you can get in your row. I’m usually a fan of having lots of seat space. But, it would be fun to see how many people we could get in a row at church. To make it extra fun, vote before hand. Then see how many people you can talk into joining your row.
Selfie contest. I’m horrible at selfies. My arms are short. I never know where to look. I’m fine with being bad at them. But that doesn’t stop me from trying to take them.
Possible hashtags to use:
If you’re “stuck” going to church, hopefully I’ve given you some ideas on how to pass the time.
Be sure to check out my social media because I’ll be tweeting and Instagramming my Christmas Eve service! Happy Holidays!