For Christmas, my parents gave me a jar filled with over six hundred small slips of paper written with conversation and writing prompts. This is the one of my responses:
“Seventy-six trombones led the big parade, one hundred and ten cornets came straight behind…”
There is just something about a parade.
We watch the holiday parades in New York and Pasadena, we celebrate with the small town displays of hard work and gleeful extravagance, we get excited because a parade is coming.
And then maybe, just maybe, we get the chance to be in a parade: directing a float, handling a balloon, or simply able to wave out at all the people watching and waiting to see what is next.
A parade is almost like a piece of music. You cannot experience the entire parade all at once, it has to pass by you, letting you see the disparate parts, the different elements of color and sight and sound. If the whole parade was all at once, then you would miss the fun of it. If they were all gathered in a field at one point, and you had to look at them all from a single vantage point, then there would be details that you would certainly miss. Part of enjoying the parade, in the same manner as enjoying a piece of music, is in the extended experience, rather than condensed into a single painful crash of noise or vision.
You get to look forward to something, as you watch a parade. Each time something passes, something is coming right behind. And if we are lucky, then the grand finale is at the close, and it will make all this waiting worth our time and patience.
And so we wait. Perhaps, if it is cold, we wait with a thermos of hot chocolate, or if it is desperately hot, we wait while fanning our faces, and trying to keep in the shade. Sitting in lawn chairs, or in the tail gate of a car, or simply on the curb, we wait and hope that the waiting is worth the coming celebration.
But even if it is not, if the parade is not what we hoped, perhaps we tell ourselves that we enjoyed it anyway. Maybe we make it worth our while, because of the time that we spent. We make the experience of a parade more than just the parade. It’s partly the waiting, the expectation, the watching, rather than the string of people and things displayed before us. It is the camaraderie of the spectators, the gleeful cries of children who watch and wave from their parent’s laps.
We go to a parade, and enjoy our time, regardless of what happens, merely because we were there.
Perhaps for some of us, I would certainly hope so.
Pardon a metaphorical leap, for a moment, as we consider that parades are like music, and that possibly, a worship service can be like a parade.
See, in worship, there are people who will show up who merely came because they felt that they had to, and maybe they will sit on the curb and wait for everything to pass by them so they can leave. But the folks who enjoy worship, who truly come to worship and to celebrate, they see the time as a gift. It doesn’t matter if they are on the side or on the route streaming by the people; some people, when they come to worship, will find that they have worshipped when they leave, regardless of what happens. It can be a celebration complete with incense and chimes, liturgies and hundred voice choirs, or a simple time of congregational hymns and prayer and preaching, but worship will be worship for them.
Part of the joy is in the participation. It is in the decision, when you go, to know that you will enjoy it, you will find it has worth, that you will have been there, and it was good.