BikerDude's boss, whom he has taken to referring to as The Godless Heathen, decided on Monday that the dealership would remain open on Christmas Eve until 8:00. You know, for all of those last-minute shoppers who buy cars on Christmas Eve. The problem for us was that my family had planned on having our big Christmas dinner on Christmas Eve because my niece and nephew were leaving mid-day Christmas Day to go visit their mom in Chesapeake. Staying 'til 8:00 would ruin everyone's Christmas because either we would have to drive down separately or Christmas dinner would have to proceed without the turkey, which I had. Furthermore, my mom, Memaw, wanted all of us to go to their church's Christmas Eve service, which was at 5:00.
By Tuesday, TGH had decided that maybe they'd close up shop at 6:00. That would put us in Lynchburg at about 7:00-7:30, still too late for the Christmas Eve service, but better. BikerDude told me to stand by and commit to nothing.
I got off from work at 2:00, picked up a couple of last minute things and came home to finish packing, etc. When I walked in, I noticed that the fireplace wall looked... a little bare. That's because the picture over the fireplace was laying in the floor (a large print, done by a friend of mine). Also, the nativity set was scattered-- the sheep had apparently made a break for it, because the shepherds were all askew and the sheep were found under the Christmas tree. I'm guessing Razor was this particular culprit, but it's only a guess.
After rounding up the sheep, rehanging the picture and reorganizing the nativity scene, I was ready to hit the road. BikerDude phoned around 3:00 to say that he was on his way home. I asked him if they had closed early. He said not exactly. He had told his manager about our Christmas plans and told him he had planned to go to a late lunch around 2:45 and not come back 'til Friday. He didn't wait to get permission, but at a few minutes to 3:00, he told his manager "Hey, I'm going to get a bite to eat" and headed out the door. He hasn't come back home yet this morning, so I'm assuming that he hasn't been fired. Yet. Or he's out looking for another job before coming home.
We had been talking about Christmas Eve services and BikerDude stated that he really missed the old fashioned midnight services. I agreed: As a child, my Grandma McCraw's church used to have 11:00 p.m. services, and frequently we would accompany her to those services. They were usually beautiful: Quiet and contemplative, with candlelight and lots of wonderful music. I did a little web research and discovered that Grandma's church (now called Rivermont Avenue Evangelical Presbyterian Church, whatever that means) would still be hosting an 11:00 service, so BikerDude and I decided to go.
Let me say up front that the Christmas Eve service at Memaw and Bobo's church (the church I grew up in) was fine. They have trended towards "blended" services these days, and this one was no different. That isn't exactly my cup of tea (certainly not on a weekly basis), but the service was nice, if a little casual for my tastes for a Christmas Eve service. Afterwards, we went to Memaw and Bobo's house and had a wonderful dinner with smoked turkey and ham, mashed potatoes and gravy, sweet potatoes and stuffing, broccoli casserole and green beans, cranberry sauce and cherry jello salad, Memaw's special rolls and watermelon rind pickle. Dessert was apple cake, pecan pie and Christmas cookies. It was all fabulous. Memaw knows how to put on a spread!
After the excitement of the evening, the travel and the wonderful meal, BikerDude and I went to the 11:00 service. What an experience! The church had a small brass and string orchestra playing a lovely Christmas concerto when we arrived. The service was very traditional, with responsive readings from Isaiah and from the gospels. There was a soloist-- an operatic soprano with a clear, lovely voice-- and lots of Christmas hymns. The sermon was interesting, thoughtful and relevant. It was, more than anything else, peaceful. A small oasis of silence carved out of the busy holiday to remind us of the real message at the heart of the season. I am so glad we went. I have a feeling it won't be the last time.
And now I have to go on a search and rescue mission: Baby Jesus is missing.