Cleaning up Christmas

I aspire to have Christmas decorations cleaned, packed up and thank you notes sent by Epiphany…. But it doesn’t always work out that way.  This year, Epiphany was on a Monday and we didn’t have the time and energy to do everything we wanted to do.  So little by little we did what we could.  Thank you notes that could be texts or emails went out quickly and I’m still working on some that require handwritten notes of thanks that include how we used the gift cards (some because we haven’t yet used the gift card).  

My husband handled undecorating the tree, putting the decorations away, taking the tree to the curb during the appropriate time frame the borough selected to do tree pick up, and called the borough when that pick up didn’t happen… don’t worry, like the rest of us they aren’t quite done with the chore list either and they are on their way. 

I took on the task of taking down the nativity set, putting items into their carefully and not-so-carefully labeled bags.  Shepheard. Oops.  That was Joe.  I enlisted the help of my mother to make new bags for the all of the extra animals and angels.  I learned how special nativity sets are from her.  And we both love a good craft project.  Remember she helped me make clergy robes and stoles for my American Girl Doll, Molly.   I’ve written about my nativity set before, in Timing the Takedown and Reflections on Selecting a Nativity Set, so I’ll keep this part brief.  Part of infusing meaning and memory into these items is putting them away with care and remembering that this box is the first gift to myself of the next Christmas season.  I’m careful to put it away and to be sure that the doily/table runner my great grandmother crocheted is the first thing I will see when I open the box next year.  This year, mom and I remembered her as we put it away.  

The Sunday after Christmas, I preached “Worth the Wait” to a faithful few.  I’ve been asked what the reaction was.  There were people who were noticeably uncomfortable during the sermon.  The usual “cheering section” of ladies remarked on how much they love sermons about women and women’s issues.  It was also “Birthday Sunday”, the last Sunday of the month when we have cake after worship, I’m a December birthday, and those who didn’t say much about the sermon still said happy birthday to me.  There wasn’t any push back that was directed at me.  The week after the sermon, one of the ladies asked if anyone had said anything negative about the sermon to me; no one had.  No one had said anything to her either, so she grinned like we had both gotten away with something.  I checked in with the senior pastor just to be sure and he hadn’t heard anything either.  So, I guess we are all operating under the adage, “If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all”… or maybe being uncomfortable is tolerable and they know the senior pastor preaches more anyway… or maybe it was just an average sermon and no one remembers it after Tuesday anyway… or maybe it really is ok to push the feminist agenda a little.  Who knows?  

I’m not one for new year’s resolutions, or feeling different the day after my birthday because I’m another year older… being born on December 31st some years I just want my birthday to feel like a normal day, or at least as normal of a day can be with all of the Christmas decorations up while counting down till the new year.  But I do have to produce an annual report for the congregation.  Luckily, I have until the end of January to do so.  To create that report, I often draw from other documents so cleaning up after Christmas also involves fixing past typos.  My favorite correction this year, brought to me by a church lady who happened to read one of my emails closely.  Apparently, I had typed incarnate women instead of incarcerated women when talking about a particular program.  Her response email said, I imagine it is a mistake only a pastor could make especially at Christmas time.  But maybe, it is a “mistake” that we should make all the time, to see those who are incarcerated as God in fleshly human form present among us in unexpected ways.  

By far, my favorite mistake over the past year was also during advent.  One of our worship leaders announced the hymn “Come Through Long-Expected Jesus”, or at least that’s what I heard (sometimes the Holy Spirit whispers something between the words spoken and the ears opened).  You may know the hymn as “Come, Thou Long-Expected Jesus”.  So, my hope for the new year is that I see Jesus in unexpected places and people, especially those in the margins of our society, and it is my hope that Jesus comes through for them.

Come, Thou long expected Jesus,

Born to set Thy people free;

From our fears and sins release us;

Let us find our rest in Thee.  

Israel’s strength and consolation,

Hope of all the earth Thou art;

Dear desire of every nation,

Joy of every longing heart.

Born Thy people to deliver,

Born a child and yet a King,

Born to reign in us forever,

Now Thy gracious kingdom bring.

By Thine own eternal Spirit,

Rule in all our hearts alone;

By Thine all sufficient merit,

Raise us to Thy glorious throne.  

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