The reality of being so isolated hit me on Christmas Eve. That, coupled with wanting to be home for Christmas (Selkirk, Ottawa or Halifax - one of those three would have been just fine!), made for a bit of a lonely day. So I was DETERMINED to go to the Christmas Eve service. I was going to get out! Even if it meant being out way past my bedtime (the service was at 10:30pm), having to go all by myself, having to walk there and back, and sacrificing sitting down and watching Christmas Vacation with my hubby. I needed to get out and try to meet people and more importantly I needed to spend some time with my King. My attitude needed a facelift.
I arrived on time for the service and the church was nearly empty. Had I missed it? Nope! I'm learning that people here are in tune with Ward family timing. Everything starts at least 15 minutes late. By the time the service started, 30 minutes late, the church was PACKED!!! If that wasn't surprising enough, there were TONS of children. Babies, toddlers, preschoolers all the way to teenagers and adults all piled on top of one another.
Ok, it's time for another list. My Christmas Eve Service Surprises
1. Sheer number of people
2. High proportion and number of children
3. The children were dressed in their BEST outfits. I'm talking about frilly, sequenced or satin dresses for the girls and collared shirts, vests and even a few ties for the boys. Even the babies were decked out in smashing outfits.
4. How well behaved the children were. I mean, they were well behaved for a typical church service but considering the double whammy that it was Christmas Eve AND that it was soooo late, they were sheer angels! Now after discussing this at our Christmas dinner, I was informed that children here do not have routines - at all. None of this 7:30pm bedtime. Everyone goes to bed late and they all simply sleep in the next morning. If they want to nap at 4pm, great, they can fill their boots!
5. How LONG the service was. I didn't get home until 1am. I felt so guilty at times because there I was getting really tired and cranky thinking "is it over yet?", while the 2 year old beside me sat there on his dad's lap smiling... OK if the children can sit through this long service on Christmas Eve in less than comfortable outfits (I imagine) than so can I!
6. While I didn't understand a lot of it (only some of it was translated), it was a nice service. I enjoyed singing Christmas carols in French or in English (depending on which language I remembered them in) while they sang them in Inuktitut. Tears filled my eyes while witnessing beautiful older men dancing in the aisle and praising God. I was especially touched by a seemingly poor dad and his young son. I assume that they were poor because they were wearing nothing but dirty t-shirts. This man however was so warm. He clearly loved his son and was wonderfully tender toward him. They sat in front of me and I really appreciated his warm smile, hearty handshake and "Merry Christmas" wishes.
I went back home tired, but the joy in my heart had been renewed. One can be anywhere in the world but there is something special about meeting together with the body of Believers. Hallelujah.