Christmas Day, Holy Wisdom Monastery
December 25, 2019
Blessed Christmas! Christmas is a wonderful time of year. It’s a time to celebrate the amazing fact that God is with us! What did we hear just this past Sunday from the prophet Isaiah? – ‘a young woman shall bear a son and he shall be called Immanuel, God with us!!’ That’s what we are celebrating. God is with us. And in the Gospels we hear the glorious responses of the heavenly host, the sturdy shepherds, and the sages from afar to that wonderful news. It’s truly good news. I have a story that I hope will help illustrate just how good this good news is!!
Do you remember all the way back to early November this year? We had an early snowfall and then it turned bitterly cold. The snowfall was a harsh reminder to our son that he really needed new front tires on his vehicle. He’d called around to tire shops in Madison and they were booked out about two weeks in their appointments. I told him that Weber Tire in East Bristol is ‘first-come-first-serve,’ no appointment necessary. He didn’t want to take time off work so he asked me if I’d take his vehicle in for new tires. I agreed so mid-week I drove down to his place in Madison and switched vehicles with him.
Weber’s opens at 7:30a.m. I wanted to get their right when they opened the doors. I got up what I thought was early that Thursday morning and headed out to East Bristol. As I rounded the corner by St. Joseph Catholic Church on Highway V, I saw vehicles parked on both sides of the road in front of the tire store because every single spot in the small parking lot was taken! I parked. I went to the door. It was 7:30a.m. The lobby was filled with people. Eventually I made my way to the counter. The woman in charge wrote down my name, and the kind of vehicle I had on the long list she had in front of her. I asked how long the wait would be…she said, ‘About 5 hours!’ I told her I didn’t want to wait that long. She immediately, without hesitation, scratched my name off the list and thanked me for coming in. I thanked her, went back to the vehicle, and drove back home determined to get there much earlier the next morning!
I was up at 5:00a.m. on that very cold Friday morning and by 5:45a.m. I had my coffee made, my oatmeal eaten, and had taken the dog out for a walk so I again headed for East Bristol. I was hoping I’d be the first one there. I wasn’t. The small parking lot had one spot left. I took it. It was about 6:05 a.m. I sipped my coffee and waited. If I saw anyone heading for the door, I was going to be ready to leap out of my vehicle. More people were showing up, parking along the road, waiting anxiously. My concern was that some miscreant who showed up long after I’d gotten there would bolt toward the door and get in before those of us who been waiting in the cold, pre-dawn darkness. 7:00a.m. came, the office was still dark. Then it happened….an old guy who had just pulled up along the road, got out of his car and headed for Weber’s front door. So most of us who’d been waiting got out of our vehicles and headed for the door also. How was it going to be fair if the one’s who’d had a leisurely breakfast and just showed up would get in line ahead of us who sacrificed sleep and had gotten there early? There was going to be a rumble in the parking lot! Chaos will ensue. Terrible things will happen. The guy standing next to me said he’d been there since 5:00a.m. … he’d come all the way from Cambridge that morning. Tension was mounting, my feet were getting cold, we were ready to break for the door.
At 7:15a.m., the woman who was in charge of the office came to the door, flipped on the light switch, and unlocked the door. We headed for the entrance…the old guy 1st, the man from Cambridge 2nd and I was third…yes! As we filed in, I noticed a man sitting by the big office window. He handed the woman a clipboard. We stood in line at the counter. The woman asked the old guy…’what kind of vehicle?’… ’black Chevy SUV,’ he replied…she looked at the clipboard, made a checkmark by the vehicle near the bottom of the list and took his name; then the guy from Cambridge…’what kind of vehicle?…’green Ford pick-up’…she made a checkmark by his vehicle which was at the top of the list! Suddenly, like a lightning bolt, it struck me that the guy with the clipboard was listing the vehicles as they showed up in the parking lot and along the road! There was order in the chaos! The queuing for a good place in line in the cold darkness was meaningless! There was another way, a different way, a way better way.
As you may have gathered, this bunch of old guys elbowing their way for position in a tire store parking lot is a metaphor for chaos. And then God’s Spirit covered the chaos and there was order. And through God’s Spirit, to make sure we were not going be chained to our own inclinations and self-serving actions, sent Jesus, the one who saves us from that in us which blinds us to seeing God in ourselves and others. Jesus, Immanuel, God with us, comes to our dark mornings with the light of God’s goodness, brings God’s order, and brings God’s peace to our lives…‘wonderful counselor, mighty God, prince of peace.’ Struggling for a place is unnecessary because God has given us a place in Jesus. In Jesus, God has called us by name and has made us God’s own. As the chaos of daily life seems sometimes to overwhelm us, may we know that God’s presence is with us to astonish us with peace, goodness, and grace. Amen.