OK, so perhaps I ought to have gone over to church a little earlier on Christmass eve. Or perhaps I ought to have communicated better with everyone involved in the service. But lessons can be learned from these omissions and next year I shall try harder.
So there I was, scampering about lighting tea-lights, finding cardboard circles, inserting new eucharistic prayer pages into Altar Book, searching for white vestments, choosing which new Bambino to use to replace the broken-armed One of old and wrapping him tastefully in an old cotta, trying to find an extension to light up the inside of the font with twinkly lights, and telling the myriad of servers what they were to do. Yes, I really should have gone over earlier.
Mind you, it would have been too late to do anything about the service books in which I’d put the wrong hymns. There was a mixture of hymns for Christmass eve and Christmass day so that threw the organist into a tizz because he hadn’t practiced some of them. As a result we had the strangest tune ever for Love came down at Christmas.
The words of the Sacristy prayer escaped me too, so het up was I. But eventually we gathered at the back of the church and the solo of Once in Royal David’s City went swimmingly. And off we went, lighting candles on the way. (Small hiatus but we all made it in the end.) And as I neared the altar I realised that I had forgotten the most important Person… the Bambino. The baby Jesus was still lying on top of the music cupboard all ready to ‘go on’. And as the last lines of the last verse were sung I realised there was nothing I could do but confess all and scamper down to collect said Bambino amidst gales of laughter. What the visitors thought, I hate to think. But scampering (actually for ‘scampering’ read ‘thundering’) down the aisle and back left me a little breathless. Gasping, in fact. Bent over double trying to fill my asthmatic lungs with air which was made all the more tricky when the thurible was right under my nose, is not a good look for a priest who wants to look cool and in control. So I gasped my way through the blessing of the crib in very short phrases. The Bambino looked smug.
We’d also had a bit of trouble with the loop system over the past few days with a lot of interference coming through the speakers. Not being an electrician all I could do was shove all the wires in and give them a wiggle, and thump the top a few times. I even tried switching it off and back on again, which usually works, but to no avail. Earlier in the day at the Christingle service we’d ended up unplugging it altogether which was find as most of those attending had good hearing, being mostly under 75. However, the same could not be said for those attending Midnight Mass and I thought I wasn’t sounding terribly loud so had to project my voice a little harder. Not easy when your lungs are fit to explode and you can’t find a glass of water for love nor money. However, by the time I climbed into the pulpit to do my sermon I saw the plug lying on the floor where it had been disconnected earlier. It all got a bit better after that.
Well I say that, but in fact there was the small incident with the wafers being cast asunder at communion but I think we got away with that one. And nobody was set on fire which frankly was a miracle with that many candles and tealights. And as the last hymn was being sung I kept casting an anxious eye on the person who had been given the task of popping the champagne. She was so enjoying that last hymn, that she completely forgot. So the choir, servers and I hightailed it down to the back and started to tear open the bubbly as they struggled to sing the descant for that last verse of O Come all Ye Faithful. I think they did terribly well under the circumstances.
So there we have it. All a bit of a disaster with nobody to blame but myself. Now I realise why my old parish priest used to get so tetchy before big services. It was because he wanted everything to be just right. And I was certainly not the best company or the most charitable person before that service either. Next year, I’ll be there much earlier. Or else I’ll get some tranquillisers from my Rector’s Warden.
Merry Christmass everyone!