Chairs, not pews. Metal frames, a deep green back and seat. Comfortable rows, but not too many of them. Blue hard covered Bibles dotting the rows. You think they are hymn books, but when you flip through, it's a Bible and you set it aside and wonder why they don't put the scripture up on the power point like everyone else (later you discover they do).
There are no musicians. Not one in the whole place. The singing feels thin with only a guitar, the minister playing better suited to speak than to make music. Old songs, carols, heavens above haven't we sung enough of those this year? Other places have the band play through these old chestnuts double time, then we smile at each other for having sung them, then on with the show.
Why do people come to this long building, this make-do-make-shift place with green chairs and blue bibles and old songs? There are so many other places to go. Large buildings with steeples and stained glass. Parking lots filled to overflowing. Dozens of children poking each other, jittery to get to their classrooms where they can holler out, "Jesus! God!" and get all the answers right. Populous places young people like to go to, like to play in the band, and smile at other young people.
Why the long building with no musicians?
When you look around, you find your answer. The people in this place swim in deep waters. They want to hold their children on their laps and mutter Psalms into their ears. They want to read the Word and hear the pastor say, "Tell me what happened to you as we read those words." They engage in their faith like farmers smelling spring soil.
When the preacher is done preaching he looks at you, at everyone in those green chairs with the blue bibles and says, "I've told you what I think. Now, what do you think?" And it's a shock. He knows that it is at first. To be asked. And they start talking. This group of people thinned, and worn, they start saying what they think, asking, telling, even laughing.
And when someone on the way out says, "Merry Christmas," the words feel dense with purpose. As if Christmas might be something you can do something about. And you leave wondering what could be done.
From our family to yours, Merry Christmas, and a happy New Year.