Open

 

Open 2017

Books take up the greatest amount of space on the shelves in my office. However, there is one shelf devoted to important photos, one devoted to bacon – if you have to ask, you don’t really want to know – and one that just has some special gifts given to me over the years.

One of the treasured gifts on that shelf is a a little red fire engine given to me by Dick and Jessie one December as an early Christmas present. I laughed when I opened it and I still smile every time I see it.

It was the beginning of Advent one year and to set the tone of “waiting” I wrote an article for our church newsletter that told a long and involved story about a gift I wanted as a child one Christmas. I’ll give you the short version now. I spotted a fire engine in a store one day while shopping with my Mom. I begged her to get it for me and she said something about “Maybe for Christmas.” I didn’t stop talking about that engine until one day a suspicious looking package appeared under our Christmas tree with my name on it. It was the right height, width and length for that fire engine and to keep from jinxing anything, I shut up about it till Christmas morn.

It’s important to know that at times, my family makes Christmas gift wrapping an art in and of itself. They did with this package as well. I recall at least three layers of wrapping paper that were all covered in shipping tape under the outer layer of tissue paper. It was frustrating to open and I spent a good deal of time trying to rip into it. I remember writing about this:

“Even my older brother started to feel sorry for me and gave me a hand in opening this present. He helped me rip, pull and tear on that package. And then, when all the wrapping and tape lay in a heap around us… Well, I think I am just going to save the end of this story for Christmas Eve. Join us in worship then and I will tell the rest.

And I ended the article that way.

On December 22nd, Jessie and Dick stopped by to see me with a gift. They asked me to open it right then and sure enough it was a fire engine with a card that said, “Every little boy deserves to get the gift they really want, sometimes.”

I explained to them that I did indeed get the gift I wanted that Christmas many years ago and that I had told the story the way I did to get us all in the spirit of “waiting”. We all had a huge laugh about it and I cherish that engine even more than the original. (Well, at least it lasted longer. Seven year old boys can destroy toys in no time. A book shelf is pretty safe.)

That second engine was much easier to open too. I think that was because the givers of the gift thought I had waited long enough and they wanted to make things as simple as possible for me to receive this gift.

These days I pray that I have their eyes during Advent every year. I know the greatest gift some people could ever have this Christmas. I pray that the Spirit leads and I find just the right way to wrap it up and pass it on.

Thank you, Jessie and Dick! You’ve made every Advent, every Christmas special to this little boy, uhm, pastor.

Peace,

Scott

#RethinkChurch

#UnwrapChristmas

Definite Different Drumbeat – 2

Dubious

(Just a note first…I have been using my new ReMarkable tablet to write posts the past few days. Today,the tablet and I had, well, issues. Fortunately, I printed a draft and can type it in. Sorry…no handwriting to dig through today.)

Paul could feel the dubious looks and incredulous stares on the back of his neck as he hung up his placard and shovel in the same spot he’d been placing it for years. He placed his overcoat directly beside it, a coat he wore for protection from the elements of his small town who preferred to meet prophecy with thrown rotten eggs rather than repentance.

As he turned to meet the eyes of the Christian judge behind, he found that he had to lower his gaze a couple of feet. “Ah, one of Jackson’s boys.” he thought. Jackson had long got past the judgmental stage with Paul and even managed to overcome the usual awkwardness that remained. Jackson treated Paul as a fellow man. He liked Jackson because of that. Would his three boys turn out as well? Would this one that was staring at him now turn out to be cut from his father’s cloth? Who knew?

Paul raised his head a little bit to give a greeting to the young boy and was himself startled when an involuntary grunt escaped from his throat. The boy darted through the narthex door and into the sanctuary before Paul could even think of how to apologize.

Paul took his seat in the back pew of the Methodist Church, arranged his long hair and longer beard with a few strokes from his hand and prepared himself for the rituals and songs to come. He didn’t care for worship all that much in the Methodist tradition. But it was God’s house and the people in this sanctuary were polite. They might stare, but they didn’t ask him to leave his shovel at home. Most just ignored him and that was fine. They may well be damned for not heeding his shouldered message but they let him go on carrying it.

And yet the older man could not keep from stealing glances at the middle son of Jackson through the whole worship service. At first he thought it was the burning desire to apologize to the young man for he had indeed scared him. Soon, that desire faded and Paul recognized the boy for who he was, one of the silent ones. During his many walks through town Paul would be taunted by the cries of groups of kids – “Crazy Paul! Crazy Paul! Crazy Paul!” – but the silent ones may have been in the group, but never took up the cry. He doubted that this young boy would ever be brave enough to stand up to his friends but he was silent. Sometimes, silence was golden for Paul.

That didn’t settle his mind either and Paul still found himself looking at the boy from time to time.

Then it hit him.

Was it really a grunt that escaped from his throat? Or was it perhaps God speaking to the young man through Paul in a way only the boy would understand? Is that why he was frightened? Despite the many times Paul heard himself referred to as crazy, he knew he was completely lucid. He also knew that he didn’t understand half of what God did in this world and understood even less of what God didn’t do.

The boy would just not leave Paul’s mind so when the final hymn started, Paul decided to make an early exit. Reaching the narthex he donned his overcoat and shouldered his sign, the placard of prophecy plastered on a snow shovel – “THE END IS NEAR! REPENT!”. He walked out the door and allowed his ever present snow boots to smack the hot July pavement as he journeyed home for the day. With each step, instead of the listening for the cries of “Cra-zy Paul!” he allowed himself to whisper a prayer. “Jackson’s son…Jackson’s son…Jackson’s son.”

Peace!