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Erica Schemper and her father, Lugene Schemper, at Christmas Day Vespers in 2005.

‘Tis the Season to be in the Family Business

Erica Schemper and her father, Lugene Schemper, at Christmas Day Vespers in 2005.

Erica Schemper and her father, Lugene Schemper, at Christmas Day Vespers in 2005.

This is my idealized childhood Christmas memory. It’s about 9:00pm, and our church’s Christmas Eve service is over. Everyone has finally left the building, except for my family. We are always the last to leave: we’re the pastor’s family. But tonight, instead of loading up the car and heading home, we go into the church bathroom where all four kids change into warm pajamas, then load into the station wagon, and off we go, beginning the 14-hour drive from upstate New York to my grandparents’ house in suburban Chicago. We’ll be there in time for Christmas dinner, and presents.

I’m a multigenerational pastor’s kid (often referred to as “PKs” in pastoral families). My dad is a pastor. My maternal grandfather is a pastor and a former missionary. And while growing up in a clergy family means you are often more religiously observant than the average Christmas and Easter family, it usually also means that your family’s traditions around the holidays are somewhat malleable. We were all so busy around Christmas, travel had to be arranged around the Christmas worship schedules; and, for the sake of sanity, my parents had to let go of some things that other families might think of as non-negotiable traditions (I was shocked to learn that some families have a huge dinner on Christmas Eve. Who’s got the time to roast a goose when you’ve got to stick 400 candles into their little paper wax-catchers?).

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Poinsettias

Ask a Young Clergy Woman: Holly Jolly Christmas Edition

PoinsettiasDear Askie,

The holiday season is busy for everyone, but I would guess that it’s especially busy for clergy. I can only imagine how busy and stressed my wonderful pastor must be with so many church events and worship services to manage, on top of all of her family obligations! I’d like to do what I can to make the season easier and merrier for her, but I don’t know where to start. Could you advise all of us church folks about what we can do at Christmas time to care for the pastors and their families who give so much to make Christmas so special for our church?

Merry Christmas,
Puzzled Parishioner

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Silent Night

Silent night, holy night
All is calm, all is bright
Round yon Virgin Mother and Child
Holy Infant so tender and mild
Sleep in heavenly peace
Sleep in heavenly peace

The lyrics of our final hymn at the Christmas Eve service rang in my ears as I peered into the cold silent night outside the church doors. After closing the doors to this holy night, I blew out the candles that had lit our way to the birth of peace. I gazed out the window to wonder about this tender and mild child that tore open the heavens and came down incarnated in Corinth.

It had happened again. Jesus Christ was born again this day. The mysterious wonder of the incarnate had torn through the heavens as the prophets had hoped. And yet, as I blew out the candles, I couldn’t help but wonder what had changed. We have been waiting for this for the past four weeks. We’ve been preparing for this miracle of birth as Jesus came through the birth canal. We’ve gotten ready for this moment when he was named King over the powers that be, this helpless child over the State, over the ones who loved to oppress. We have been waiting these days for justice to reign. And yet, as I settle into my new home and see this world with new eyes, I wonder about this silent night.

 

As I blew out the last few candles, my breath mingled with the lyrics of the familiar hymn.

 

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