Sometimes I’ll be told that I don’t write enough of myself into this blog, so today is an exception. It’s been a rather different December.
Years ago, I wrote a Christmas song that I always performed at least once, somewhere. For the second year in a row, the only audience the song has had was a crude version on YouTube. I’m ever facing the mid-life crisis that my worship-leading and music-performance days are over. Unfortunately, my creativity hasn’t yet died, so I am forever coming up with great church music ideas and absolutely nowhere to execute them, which is rather frustrating. If you need a keyboard player or a bass player, I might be ready to move about now.
A few weeks ago we went to a dessert fundraiser for a dog. There’s a young girl in our church who has an autism service dog, and the dog has been having health problems which has caused the family to incur costs that apparently aren’t otherwise covered. There’s something really cool though about going to a church that would hold a fundraiser for a dog. In many local congregations, that would never get past the idea stage. The dog’s name, by the way, is Jetson.
The season can become a time of stress if you try to do everything. This year we opted out of party that’s become a tradition in order to squeeze in something new, a dinner party with the Bible study small group we’ve been attending. We played Telestrations, which is a cross between Pictionary and the game commonly called ‘Broken Telephone.’ Lots of fun, and far more interesting food than you’d find at a church potluck.
This year we attended a Christmas play in which none of the huge cast of actors have any speaking parts. A narrator carries the story and the actors mime their parts where their role parallels what the narrator is saying. A choir at the back of the auditorium sings part of the story as well, but the real work is done by an organist who is playing relatively non-stop for an hour. The narrated story transforms a traditional Anglican church for two nights, and is now in its 54th year.
The Christian bookstore where I work is experiencing something more akin to Passover than Christmas, inasmuch as customers have basically passed us over this year. People are either buying elsewhere, or not buying Christian resources at all. As funny as Passover in December sounds, it’s leaving us without any financial base for the lean months of January, February and March. Like so many other bookstores, we’re getting the sense that the end is near. Thank you, Amazon.
Then there’s the ice storm. I watch the NBC Nightly News with Brian Williams each and every weekday, but weather incidents are always something that happens to somebody else. We tend to think we’re immune to both tornadoes and earthquakes up here in the frozen north; but we do deal with cold. Fortunately, my wife collects oil lamps and we stayed warm while the power was out for 18 hours. My eldest son described her on Facebook as a wise (not foolish) bridesmaid. Like an idiot, I had to ask him to explain the reference. We did lose one tree, though; local readers with a chainsaw should email me.
The storm also meant the cancellation of Christmas Sunday services all across our region. This is the high point in the Christian year; a service that pastors and worship leaders and choir directors and other participants look forward to for twelve months. But it’s also a key Sunday for financial giving because attendance is usually high, visitors are present, and the deadline for getting an income tax receipt is in view. Some churches can ride over a missed Sunday, but the loss of this particular week can send other churches reeling. And no, you don’t necessarily make it up the next week, and the Christmas Eve forecast is for extreme cold.
Next, there is my youngest son having to have all four wisdom teeth removed two days before Christmas. Driving him to the dental surgeon, I felt like the pet owner who tells the dog, “Hey, wanna go for a car ride?” only to be intending something that the dog wouldn’t ordinarily agree with. From personal experience, I can say that among humans, the males of the species don’t do well with anything involving the loss of blood.
This year my other son is the lead cook at “Christmas Dinner on Christmas Day.” There are now two such events in our area, and given the aforementioned sales drop at my store, we might be helping ourselves to free community dinners more often in 2014. If you don’t have one of these in your community, you should! It’s not just the poor that need this, a lot of people simply don’t want to be alone on Christmas Day. Nor, if the capital ‘C’ church is doing its job, should they be.
And that same eldest son is at the center of what ultimately might be the most significant thing in this report. We have neighbors who we simply haven’t talked to at all over the past several years. It goes back to a wild party, and a neighbor who called the police, and some teenagers who assumed we had called the police. Without warning, my son bought them a gift card for pizza with a note saying it was something Jesus would want him to do. ‘Wait!” I thought internally, “You’re wrecking the paradigm.” Well last night the woman of the house next door appeared at the door with a pie and a very friendly hello. Peace on earth. Good will to men.
So it’s been a different December. Did I mention we went to a fundraiser for a dog? That never happens.