Friday, December 7, 2007

Christmas Preparations

Sally at Revgals has set this Friday Five:

“This has been a difficult week for me, the death of a little six year old has overshadowed our advent preparations, and made many of us here in Downham Market look differently at Christmas. With that in mind I ask whether you are the kind of person that likes everything prepared well in advance, are you a last minute crammer, or a bit of a mixture.....”

Here then is this weeks Friday 5:

1. You have a busy week, pushing out all time for preparing worship/ Sunday School lessons/ being ready for an important meeting ( or whatever equivalent your profession demands)- how do you cope?

Part of the way I cope when there is too much on my plate is by floating on all the prayers of others. I really do allow myself to trust that God will give me the words I need for sermons, or important meetings. We as clergy spend a great deal of our message on trying to get people to trust in God and yet as clergy we all too often fall into the secular realm of trying to do it all. We have to live with the reality that God will provide for our every need. If I am not prepared for a meeting, I have to have the temerity to say that “because of so and so’s funeral, or because I have had to be with a parishioner who is in crisis, I am not prepared” and leave it at that I am not doing what is necessary for my parish. If we are prepared most of the time, most congregations are willing to call forth from themselves the kind of forgiveness that they themselves want. (I have also been in parishes where that kind of dynamic was significantly absent, but I did not stay there long!).

By depending on God when things getting jammed up, I not only remind myself of the primary things of my ministry—being there for a family in crisis, but I also model for those in my parish that ministry is about caring, not a job. Sometimes they get it. Sometimes they don’t but at least I can present myself to God and my congregation with integrity.

2. You have unexpected visitors, and need to provide them with a meal- what do you do?

I don’t have a good place where I can wine and dine my friends even though I love to cook, so I take them out. Taking folks out for a meal is a way that I can value them and show them that I care. Sometimes it really takes a bite out of my billfold, but it all comes back in someway. My small town doesn’t have very many places, but there are a few restaurants that do the trick. If it is a parishioner, I will often use discretionary funds to do it. I have been known, on a nice day, to pick up sandwiches and go to a beautiful place and have a picnic.

Three discussion topics:

3. Thinking along the lines of this week’s advent theme; repentance is an important but often neglected aspect of advent preparations.....

It is interesting that in Jewish culture it was considered highly unseemly to celebrate before while one was “unclean” or not “at shalom” with another. It is the reason that Yom Kippur comes before the celebration of the New Year. It seems appropriate to clean the house before the Second Coming, so repentance seems to go with Advent. I presently am trying to clean off my desk at the office and clean the house at home. Both are disreputable. This time of clean up has always been a part of how I prepare for Christmas.

Decoration always has to begin with being cleaned up. I am not sure where that idea comes from, but I would imagine that my mother had something to do with it. It was unheard of to decorate a messy house. I guess I have applied that maxim to my spiritual life. But then again, I am not much for Christmas decorating.

4. Some of the best experiences in life occur when you simply go with the flow.....

As one who has spent her life swimming upstream, I find it rather difficult to go with the flow. But the older I get, the more that I am finding that I allow some things to slide. I don’t get as gnashed as I used to when things don’t go the way I had planned. I am also more able to deal with events that insert themselves into my best laid plans. I am more able to see that those incidents are as much gifts from God as they are problems for me to deal with. Also I think that I have had more practice at dealing with problems and I don’t have to think about how to deal with them as much. Experience is a wonderful gift! It is a shame that the present generation doesn't listen as much to the older one these days. They spend so much time doing things that we older ones have finally figured out how to do and we would be glad to share our experience.

5. Details are everything, attention to the small things enables a plan to roll forward smoothly...

I am not a detail person. (It has taken me a long time to admit that, because I like being in control.) I am lucky to have an over-all plan; I depend on others to deal with the details. And I have found that there are so many who really want to help me with the details. The important thing is for me to get out of the way of those for whom detail is their thing. I have to be willing to allow them to do their work. The parish I now serve has people in it who are absolutely wonderful with the details. I am bowled over at their ability to “sweat the small stuff” and what’s more, they don’t seem to mind that I come up with the big stuff. Thank you, God, for finding me the right spot.

Bonus if you dare- how well prepared are you for Christmas this year?
I just finished my sermon for Sunday on being prepared. And the older I get, the less I get up tight about being prepared. Part of it is because I know what I can do and can’t do. As I said, I don’t decorate. But I am preparing my sermons a bit more carefully not because I am not prepared, but because I want to be clear and clean and the message be clear. I guess there is less ego involved and it is more a matter of faith that is part of preparation.

The Christmas liturgy is ready to go to press. Advent III and IV are still on the drawing board but Christmas Eve is done. Tonight is the Christmas Play, which is a grown-up affair at St. Luke’s. I am anxious to see what this parish does to celebrate the Advent/Christmas season. It helps me get in the spirit.

But the Feast of the Incarnation figures in my faith life even more profoundly than does Easter. (Easter I am usually just too tired to appreciate.) I spend so little energy on Christmas Day and opening presents and so little time with family for this holiday, that Christmas at Church is the event that articulates my faith. I care more that Christ became human for my sake than he died and rose for my sake. That God became frail flesh, so entered into my life and the lives of my fellow human beings moves me beyond all other statements of salvation. God has so chosen to be part of me is a mystery that goes beyond my ability to calculate. And so I am always prepared for Christmas.

I am never prepared for secular christmas, that plastic holiday that is advertised in malls and such. I generally ignore that holiday.

No comments: