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Bishop Bena December

Christmas Eve in North Dakota

By Bishop Dave Bena

It was our first Christmas Eve in North Dakota. The ever present wind from the west was blowing snow across the prairie, forming huge drifts and bringing the windchill down to forty below. Our liturgical congregation gathered in The Northern Lights Chapel at Minot Air Force Base, a diverse group of about one hundred Episcopalians, Lutherans, and "high Presbyterians." The wind crept through tiny cracks in the apse, driving the candle flames crazy and blowing smoke from the thurible in a horizontal direction instead of its intended vertical. I stood in the pulpit and spoke of the Bambino. Suddenly I sensed that I was doing it all wrong. Instead of giving praise to Almighty God on this Feast of the Incarnation, I had been absorbed in leading a complicated liturgy with many moving parts. It came to me during the sermon as I said, "And make no mistake about it, my brothers and sisters, just as the Bambino came to us in a cold stable two thousand years ago, He comes to us - tonight - in this cold chapel..."

And He did. In the middle of my sermon, Jesus came to me in a special way. I became conscious that I was preaching to ME as well as to the congregation, and that Jesus was actually present with us in that moment. I paused to silently thank Him, then finished the sermon. The rest of the liturgy was one of awe for me as I continually praised our Lord. I was able to minor in liturgical leadership AND MAJOR IN WORSHIPPING ALMIGHTY GOD. It happened that way, on December 24th, 1990, and worship has never been the same for me.

This Christmas Eve or day, I'd advise you to major in worshiping Almighty God and minor in liturgical detail.

An early Merry Christmas to you and yours.

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