Our church has a cute tradition, where young children bring their offerings to a basket next to the altar.
An assortment of toddlers and young children wander up the four steps, a dollar bill in hand to share their tithe.
Sometimes one stumbles and falls. There’s a discomfort in the crowd as we wait to see what happens when one of us hits the ground.
Will we get back up on our own, brushing ourselves off and moving merrily on our way?
Will someone nearby give us a hand, helping us from our momentary low but lifting us back up onto our feet?
Will a loving parent come up to where we tumbled and pick us up, possibly carrying us back to where we belong?
This is why I go to church. More often than I care to admit to anyone but God himself, I am a child who falls. I’m so grateful to have a loving Father who comes to pick me up when I do.
Tuesday marks Christmas, which means our churches will fill up with people who don’t always feel welcome in church. They may come out of tradition or family pressure. Those folks may feel judged or watched or inadequate.
Longtime readers may recognize my message today, shared near Christmas and Easter most years but always directly aimed at those who feel uncomfortable in God’s house: Don’t worry about the other people. They’re just as sinful as you, even if they don’t show it.
No one should be there for the show. No, we’re there for that moment of grace when we’re picked back up when we fall.
And we all fall. We all have our favorite sins and vices, no matter how bad we know they are for us and for the world. Perhaps it’s alcohol or drugs. Maybe it’s pornography. It could be gossip. Perhaps it’s overeating or undereating, or anger or laziness.
Maybe it’s just the pride that you don’t want to be judged by your fellow man. The only way to erase the importance of your fellow man’s thinking about you is to override it with a good relationship with God.
It can be unfashionable to utter God’s name nowadays. Atheism, agnosticism and worship at the altar of busy-ness can separate us from what really matters in life.
That’s what makes major Christian holidays, including Christmas, so powerful. We return to our Christian roots as nation. We throw open the doors of all churches and welcome in everyone who needs a little help when they stumble.
Let’s face it, we all stumble once in a while. I pray when we do, we find both our fellow man and God there to pick us up. Merry Christmas.