Random and not so random musings from a 5th generation NE Missourian who became a 1st generation Episcopalian. Let the good times roll!

Wow. Yesterday was a long day. I have been joking today that I have spent more time on my knees in 24 hours than I can ever remember. I attended both services yesterday at Trinity, and ended up spending midnight with my Roman Catholic friends on the insistence of their 8 year old. She had the important task last night of being the child who had the privilege of placing the figurine of the Christ Child in the creche at Mary Immaculate (known as "Mary I" to the Kirksville crowd). She wanted an audience, so how could I disappoint her? Besides, I am a golfing buddy of Mary I's Father Pat, so it was a great opportunity to tell him, "Pat, since I don't get to see you on the golf course this time of year, I figured I'd come visit you at the office." He's a better priest than a golfer, by the way.

I think overall that my plan to embrace the gloominess of Advent was a good one, because by Trinity's 8 p.m. Christmas Eve service, I was ready for the release of Christmas finally being here. Trinity's two services yesterday were a 10 a.m. prayer service and the 8 p.m. eucharistic service. What I have always noticed on the times of the year where the calendar forces a "squeezing down" of the time between the 4th Sunday of Advent and Christmas (in this case, one day) that there is an emotional whirlwind in my mind that sort of catches me short in my reflective prayer time. Most years, you have a few days to put that mental preparation together in your mind. On years like this, it's more like a precipitous delivery.

Many years ago, I worked in a Labor and Delivery ward. The striking thing about that experience was no matter how good or how hasty the staff's preparations for the expectant mother, that baby was coming anyway. The "ideal" delivery was when the expected mother was coming in with her cervix dilated 3 cm or so, labor pains 15 minutes apart or so, no signs of fetal distress on the monitor. There was time to prepare the room, time for family members and the expectant dad to make ready, whether it was to make sure the videocam was working, making phone calls to relatives and friends, or just spending quiet time together. Those were often the deliveries that were "textbook". Anticipation and apprehension, but no fear or trauma.

Then there were the ones where the elevator door opened and a gaggle of staff barreled their way through the hall yelling, "She's effaced and pushing! Get out of the way!" There was a high likeihood that the new arrival's actual place of birth was in the hallway. When you overheard the staff conversations, you could sense the tension because no one had time to feel for where the cord was, about the only thing they might know for sure was which way the baby was facing. Or maybe in this situation, she was effaced, pushing, and everyone could tell the baby was not coming out the way he or she should. The tension was palpable, for everyone knew it takes a little time to set up the OR for an emergency C-section and everyone was working on the fly. Everyone was fearing the worst...but if everything turned out ok, the sense of immediate relief could immedately clear the fog of that tension surrounding everyone.

That feeling of a "precipitous delivery" was very palpable in my psyche yesterday, and, to a lesser extent, today, because there are still plenty of family things to be done at my house and tomorrow, I'll be back at work. I have lived through plenty of short time periods between 4th Sunday of Advent and Christmas before, and I have lived through those outbursts of frustration and crankiness I have just prior to Christmas, but this is the first time I've sensed that they could be linked. This will be something I will have to pay attention to next year when the gap between the two days is longer.

But there were two great messages in the sermons yesterday, both of which are applicable for this situation in my psyche. Once again, Wallace and Carrol made a great tag team. I don't know whether they flipped a coin or what for "who did which service" but whatever they did, it worked.

Wallace had the morning sermon and it played a little on the pop culture hype of "The Da Vinci Code." He used the offense that some people took to the book or the movie as more of an indictment that what was really offending people was that they were examining their own humanity, their flaws, their OWN brokenness and this was what was truly offending the sensibilities of these people. In other words, they knew their own brokenness and did not wish to ascribe these characteristics to their Christ. Then he turned it around and pointed out that God is not offended by us, warts and all, and if anything, that feeling of shame and guilt of our own flaws is actually our avenue to understanding God, the route by which we turn to Him. Good "last message" for the Advent season.

Carrol got the Christmas service. I've decided that one of the "pluses" that female priests bring to our church is...well...that they can talk about the birth of Jesus from Mary's viewpoint in a more um..."first person" way. She laid out the contrast between the Nativity we all know from the American cultural viewpoint of children dressed in clean sheets and bathrobes to the urgency and the reality of what really happened...insignificant people with no place to go, having what was probably a very ordinary birth for those days and times, in a less than desirable locale.

We were still not ready, but the Baby came anyway. That is the heart of the Christmas message. Merry Christmas!



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Kirksville, Missouri, United States
I'm a longtime area resident of that quirky and wonderful place called Kirksville, MO and am wondering what God has hiding round the next corner in my life.

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