Today was planned as a reflective service on the seven great 'O' antiphons; because it was a joint service with D+1, and a communion service, and because I was off last Sunday, it had been planned a while back, the 14 Bible readings distributed and the hymns, beautifully mournful with Advent longing, selected.
Then came a request for an infant blessing, a little girl, whose great uncle once belonged to our Sunday School. For pastoral reasons, I agreed to slot it in to today's service rather than opt for after Christmas. And so in the midst of our wonderful reflective hymns we had... 'All Things Bright and Beautiful' chosen by the parents as the only hymn they knew. The absurdity of it was stark, but it was a joy and privilege to double our congregation as family and friends came to give thanks for their new daughter. I had to smile when the response to the questions in the promises was 'yup' rather than 'we do,' but was glad to have the opportunity to pray for this little girl and her parents.
It wasn't quite the service I'd planned, and singing 'All Things bright and Beautiful' was so out of place... or was it? Isn't part of the wonderful mystery of Advent the ridiculous idea that God would come as a baby? Isn't part of what we express in the wonderful hymns of Advent a deep longing to be surprised, to discover the joy of new life and new hope in the darkness of winter.
The service wasn't the quiet space for reflection I'd imagined, but I dare to hope that in some way we encountered the God who is with us, and who has the audacity to arrive at a time when actually we aren't expecting it.