blackSeveral years ago Lesley attended a small church in the suburbs.  Every year toward the end of Advent the members of this church would create a living nativity. About a week before Christmas when most people were busy getting ready for the holiday they would conscript a few volunteers to begin the preparations for the living nativity. Out on the front lawn of the church, the volunteers would slap together a few boards in the shape of a stable. Costumes would be created out of old sheets and bathrobes so that children from the congregation could be dressed up as Mary and Joseph, shepherds, angels and wise folks. Then the children would be arranged in the make-shift stable so that people passing by in their cars would be reminded of what took place in Bethlehem on the first Christmas. The church was located at a fairly busy intersection and year after year, Lesley would marvel at the fact that the living nativity had never caused an accident, as drivers strained to see a motley band of children pushing and shoving each other inside what only remotely resembled a stable.

The living nativity was the brainchild of Deedee the dreaded church organist.  Deedee was a rather severe woman, who always wanted everything to be done just so.  Deedee worked hard to plan various grand events that she felt would benefit the congregation.  But somehow, Deedee’s grand plans were always beyond the capabilities of the volunteers that she usually managed to conscript. Over the years, people in the congregation learned to hide whenever they saw Deedee coming toward them with her clipboard. If Deedee managed to corner you and your name got put onto her clipboard, you were sunk.  Once your name was on the list, you were one of Deedee volunteers.  Deedee’ s conscripts never really knew what it was they had volunteered for until they arrived for their first rehearsal.  And by then it was too late, because Deedee had never been known to let a volunteer slip through her hands.  Continue reading

Shattered Angel: an Imperfect Christmas Story

As Christmas draws near, we turn to stories to express the inexpressible. Like the Gospel writers we are at a loss to explain the activity of our God in the world and so we too resort to story telling. Families gather and the reliable old stories are told. Each year new stories are added to our treasure troves as we seek to express the inexpressible and touch the hem of our God who is love. What better way to touch and be touched by God than to tell stories of God’s love in the world? We all have treasure troves of stories of Christ taking on flesh and dwelling among us. My story took place when I was a young woman determined that my first Christmas living out in the world would be the type of Christmas that dreams are made of.

It’s a story about the quest for the perfect Christmas. When I was growing up, I always wanted Christmas to be just so. But the reality of life with all its inherent dysfunctions coupled with financial limitations meant that we just couldn’t pull off the perfect Christmas. I used to comfort myself with the notion that when I grew up things would be different. When I grew up, I’d do things better. I’d save up my money so that no one would be disappointed and there’d be enough to ensure that the house would be filled with Christmas cheer! The decorations would be perfect and no family arguments or disappointments would be allowed to ruin my dream of the perfect Christmas. I knew that just as soon as I had my own place, I’d be able to pull off the kind of Christmas that would be so full of peace and harmony that the angels wouldn’t be able to keep from singing. Continue reading