This Advent weekend has been about one thing only: the annual Family Christmas Celebration service at my church. Every year, using drama and song and artistry, a bunch of incredibly talented people conspire to bring a fresh perspective to the Christmas story. This year I was honoured to be a part of the mix, first as simply part of the planning team and then, because most people in my church know me for a writer, to draft the script. The process of course was very collaborative; I did a rough draft, we edited as a group, then I would incorporate the revisions. Rinse and repeat. The theme we selected was Emmanuel: God With Us, to be presented through scenes from all over the Bible and ultimately climaxing in the Nativity scene: the birth of “God with us”.
And something was bugging me. For a long time I didn’t know what. There were changes that I wasn’t quite happy with. I brushed it aside, thinking it was simply the stinging ego of a “great literary craftsman”. Then, two weeks ago, I was lying in bed on Friday night. We had just done another round of group revisions. We needed a final draft Sunday at the latest. I had to do that and go to a worship team practice the next day…and I couldn’t sleep.
I don’t know how it started, what made me board that particular train of thought, but at two in the morning there’s no limit to the things that go through your head. Before I knew what was happening, I was up pacing around my bedroom, furiously taking notes and barrelling towards total epiphany. I could see in front of my eyes exactly what the problem was: we hadn’t really nailed the theme. Somewhere along the way we had broken our compass and gotten lost in the treacherous fog called Trying To Say Too Much In One 60-Minute Drama, while on the shoals of No More Time. And I thought I could see a lighthouse piercing through the bleakness, keeping us from the rocks.
I’m not saying I was some sort of saviour. Far from it.
“Inspiration” is a word that gets tossed around a lot in creative circles. All sorts of artists say they have it. But what do we mean? Most of us likely aren’t quite sure. I like to think of inspiration as the Spirit coming in. It guides you into the truth and helps you along as you struggle to figure out what it is you’re supposed to be doing. When I have such moments of inspiration, I feel very far from being an extraordinary genius with all the answers. I feel like I’m being led. I feel like I’m living my call.
Like I said, this was a collaborative process. A lot of different people with a lot of different gifts, each being inspired in their own way, coming together to accomplish an engaging and hopefully meaningful experience for all who attended the service. This morning was the culmination of everyone’s efforts. And boy was it ever a culmination. A few hiccups, a few things cut out I wish we could have kept — but both of those things are inevitable and not to be fretted over. No disappointments. No regrets. And afterwards: hugs all around as we celebrated that God had really let us pull it off.
A deep sense of fulfillment has come. But to be honest, it’s been there since that very long, sleepless night. It isn’t the fulfillment that comes from knowing you’ve done a good job, but from knowing you’re doing the right job. To know that you’re living out your call. We’re only able to have that when God’s Spirit is involved and working.
We can do amazing things together when God is with us.