My feeble brain had a tough time processing what I saw this morning when I strolled into the commons of the local middle school: Chairs, chairs, everywhere – some already in tidy rows; others stacked, pending placement. All of them, awaiting the crowds on Christmas Eve.
Our parish borrows this space…to provide an additional venue for the early-evening Mass on December 24. Remarkably, a temporary sanctuary is needed then…even though our church building is large enough to accommodate about 1,000 people.
This morning’s work-crew set up, I’m told, another 800 chairs in the middle school commons. So at least on this one day of the year, the congregation nearly doubles in size during our most-popular time slot for worship.
Gazing across the expanse, I marveled at our Christmas crop: Holiness overflows in this suburban enclave, at least for a few hours each year.
We open our eyes, and see something astonishing – an otherwise often-disinterested world…pausing to take note of its Salvation.
It might seem odd, but the temporary sanctuary managed to fill my heart with wonder and joy this morning. I wasn’t in a mood to grouse about where my neighbors are on every other Sunday and feast day of the year.
Rather, I looked upon these impermanent pews…and encountered in them something like a vision of the Holy One, sauntering through our neighborhood…arms spread wide in a welcoming gesture. I savored the moment, this precious vision…knowing that such a welcome could only come from a loving and merciful God Most High.
Then I remembered how, in the last days of Advent, we have come to call this Gift by name:
O Radiant Dawn,
Splendor of eternal light, sun of justice:
Come and shine on those who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death.
Come, Lord Jesus! Come!
Let us pause now…to recall that we are in the presence of the Holy & Merciful One.