This post is from Cindy Hylton and first appeared at Serge. Cindy leads the London-based program our New City apprentices go through which you can find out more about here: MAP London
When Chris, the pastor of our church plant, asked me to lead worship, I picked the first Sunday in Advent. I had already asked the apprentices to pray for me as December approached, because I know how easily I get caught up in the things that need to get done before Christmas and do not take the time to be quiet, to focus and meditate on the great truth of Emmanuel—that God is with us.
I worked pretty hard preparing that worship service. Tried something new by rearranging the service. Read a lot of Isaiah. Prayed over where to put the songs. I so wanted the service to strike a lovely invitation to experience our personal and collective need of a Savior, and of our hope in the wait for His reappearance. I was pleased with my order of worship: it was something our eclectic and diverse little church plant could do together to begin the Advent season.
But what I had so carefully planned soon morphed into something quite messy. I arrived before church to find our usual meeting room was unavailable. Instead we were set up in a back corner of a cavernous old sanctuary with no heat. As the 20 or so of us gathered to begin the service, we stayed bundled up in coats and gloves.
The unraveling of the plans for quiet, reflective service continued. While we worshipped, people wandered in and out of the building for various reasons. Two elderly ladies sat in the other corner out of the cold having a conversation as they wait for their lift somewhere. (From the volume of their conversation, I concluded they were somewhat deaf.)
A toddler screamed while another jumped on a bench and sang. Loud voices from the sidewalk carried through the walls. A man who comes to us through the homeless film club outreach had a hard time sitting still. He talked to himself and others; sometimes he wandered around a bit before returning to his seat. At one point he warmed his hands over the Advent candle.
Chris preached and we carried on with our songs and Scripture reading. But clearly we did not strike the peaceful, intimate, worshipful atmosphere I was aiming for.
As Joel, Leah, and I walked to catch the Tube home, we were convinced that our service might have reached a new level of messy. What had just happened in there? Then as we talked, we realized that while our plans were torn to shreds, God was bringing His together in a beautiful way.
In the midst of distraction, worship was lifted to our King.
In the midst of the mess, the power of the gospel was preached.
In the midst of our brokenness, the goodness of God was on display—to our little church and the community we live in.
God was with us, showing us His grace at the fray.