|The Epiphany Window in Bethlehem Chapel at Washington National Cathedral
On the morning of Christmas Eve, in the year of our Lord, two thousand fourteen, hope is in our heart.
Tonight, at the six o'clock service, I will be hoping that the thurifer does not spill hot ashes on the carpet as he did last Christmas eve. I'll be hoping that he does not, as I did two years ago, stand under the smoke detector too long and set off the fire alarm.
Later at the eleven o'clock service while sitting in the pew with others, my mind will be more open. I will be without hope that the oblationers carry the sacramental offerings safely to the altar rail. I won't be hoping that the acolytes close the altar rail gate on time. I will be much more fully engaged in hoping that my immediate family members are relieved of their various physical maladies.
When I participate as a verger, my perspective of the liturgy is a bit different from when I sit in the congregation. Often, I hope that I can just be fully aware of the presence of God in my life. You know the old adage, "Our responsibility as humans is to know when God has hold of us by the nose and pay attention."
Does not Advent offer us, vergers or not, one of the greatest opportunities in the year to look around us with open perception of God's hope in humanity? Is it the sanctity with which we hold the season that fine-tunes our senses? Is it our feeling of exhaustion of the impending end of the calendar year that brings us back to fundamentals?
There is the white-haired British couple who immigrated to live near their children and grandchildren. He was an RAF pilot and she was a nurse. They bought a tiny cowboy hat for their three-month old grandson last evening hoping that he will grow into the hat in good health.
Across the aisle sits a former US Army sergeant and his family. Their hope for his safe return from Afghanistan was fulfilled last year.
Behind me is our resident Master Gardner, who has emphatically expressed the hope that we will not uproot certain heritage trees when we begin construction of our new parish hall soon.
My ever-sweet wife, thankful that she can sit in an actual pew with her husband for an entire service, is praying for hope of our deceased son's everlasting life and for hope that our daughters and our former Marine son will find new hope for their families in 2015. I pray for the hope that she'll keep me another 36 years.
I sometimes hope that I can just be graceful at the time of my own demise. (To those younger folks reading this, that is something you think more and more about as your years thankfully increase.)
How do we Christian humans relate to the concept of "hope?" Pick up your Bible and take a look at 1 Timothy 1:1, Ephesians 4:4, or Romans 15:13, which says, "May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope."
Let us all pray, this Christmastide, that we may, as servant ministers, live our lives in a fervent and constant state of hope from this day forward.
Abstract: This Verger's Voice was written the morning of Christmas Eve, 2014. Christmas is a very active time for vergers. We all hope that "things" will go well tonight. We hope for only small surprises, and good ones to boot! Is that all we have to hope for? How do we live "in hope?"