Ted and I agreed to light the third Advent candle this past Sunday at our Presbyterian church in downtown Atlanta. Easy peasy, we thought.
Because of travel, we had missed the previous two candle lightings. But when I viewed the video of one of the services, panic set in. This was a more complicated ceremony than the one at our former church in the northeast Georgia mountains. Way. More. Complicated.
The high-vaulted ceilings in our Atlanta church’s large sanctuary necessitate a handheld mike for the reading of the script for the ceremony. And since each of the five Advent candles is mounted on a tall ornamental pillar, the proceedings also require a long brass candlelighter (the kind the acolytes use) and a small handheld flame gun to ignite it.
On the video, the family who lit the second Advent candle included two children who held the lighting equipage while Mom and Dad oh-so-adroitly swapped the mike, taking turns reading the script before the candles were lit.
Ted and I weren’t so lucky.
It was just going to be the two of us on the chancel steps by the tall candles.
Who was going to hold all our stuff?
They’re doing choreography
So picture us in our kitchen at 6:00 on Sunday morning a few hours before our scheduled performance, rehearsing in our pajamas with the script, a wire whisk as the mike, a wooden spoon as the flame gun and my grandmother’s potato-masher as the brass candlelighter.
“Isn’t this a bit much?” asked Ted, who didn’t share my jitters.
“Church is theater,” I replied. “Theater must be rehearsed.”
I was trying to be funny, but the cause of my early-morning anxiety went a little deeper. We were both pleased we had been invited to light one of the Advent candles in a church we love, a church we call home. As a gay couple, it always feels good to be included. (There is always that.) I wanted to be sure we got it right.
So, we worked out a few kinks in the choreography regarding who would do what, who would hold each implement, how the mike needed to be held nearly touching the lips, not a foot away as Ted was inclined to do. For that reason alone, I’d say, our practice was not a wasted exercise.
Joy in the morning …
The ceremony went off without a hitch. The mike worked. The flame gun worked. The long sleeve of the royal-blue robe I wear for choir didn’t catch fire. A fellow congregant even commented afterward that we had “set the bar high” for future lighting performances.
This wasn’t a competition, of course, but it was nice to know we had done a good job. These live-streamed services are recorded for posterity, after all.
In his sermon after the candle lighting, Rev. Jasiel Hernandez Garcia told us how, no matter how well-prepared we think we are, life will throw curves at us. Joy and despair often exist side by side, a truth we must accept if we are to live our lives to the fullest.
A powerful message, especially for a guy like me who can’t resist being as prepared as possible for the worst case scenario in any given situation. Ask Ted. Even in retirement, I just can’t let the guardrails down most days. I need to do better at letting go. At understanding that all will be well, even if the lighter doesn’t work, or Ted doesn’t hold the mike in quite the right position. This will by my resolution for the new year.
Meanwhile, I thank my lucky stars Ted tolerates my compulsive tendencies with patience and humor.
It’s true: I have more blessings than I can count in my life with this man. And I think we still make a great team after all these years, even when we’re talking into a wire whisk in our kitchen at 6:00 on a Sunday morning.
… and the evening, too
To top off our third Advent Sunday, we attended a lovely choir Christmas party that evening, in person, for a change, instead of on Zoom. Gathering in our church’s fellowship hall over appetizers and wine, I wasn’t the only male attendee who made the introduction, “And this is my husband …” What an inspiration.
Advent jitters aside, it was great to know at the end of the day that times really have changed since Ted’s and my early days together almost 50 years ago. Changed for the better. That’s something to be joyful about … and grateful for this Christmas season.
Happy holidays, everyone!