Wednesday, January 12, 2011

a forgotten Advent post: Of candle wax and animal skins

Oops...found this Christmas Eve post in my draft folder!

Advent reminds us we are like the people of old who waited in darkness for light.  If I could wrap myself up in the glorious melancholy of its music, poetry and candlelight all four weeks I would.  In this perfect scenario, imagine the delight going into Grand Christmas Day, lights and delights ablaze.  

But, in our real life, there are so many legitimate -- delightful, even -- disruptions to the waiting in darkness of Advent.  One wedding anniversary and two Murphy kid birthdays mean a celebration every week during the four weeks leading to Christmas.  And, lots of chaos.  Much of it, happy chaos, to be certain; commotion and hoopla, nonetheless.  Not exactly quiet evenings meditating by the fireplace. 

Also, I work for the Church. You probably understand that Christmas is a big deal in the Church.  We have extra services and many expectations.  On most days, I look at my opportunity to serve our community with gratitude, but, I'll confess, it's always tempting to become resentful during Advent.

Yesterday I would have loved to take the day off to finish many tasks waiting for me at home for our own family Christmas.  Instead I sat at a table with a few fellow laborers and inserted 1200 little candles into 1200 paper wrappers for our Christmas Eve candlelight service.  All day long I rode the bumpy ride between gratitude and resentment.

Last night, a small band of musicians and tech volunteers met together at the Church to prepare music for Sunday's service.  They left the pretty lights on their family tree, drove out in the blustery, achy cold night to prepare for Sunday.  Because, Christmas or not, Sundays keep coming.  

Just this week, I stumbled onto an old home movie from the week before my wedding. In one particular scene,  my bleary-eyed family sat on couches and chairs in my parents' living room, folding wedding programs.  We were actually running the bulletins through the copy machine in a small room across the hall, in a small corner of an already-overflowing house that served as our church's main office.  Being as our congregation met in an old chicken barn that was slowly being renovated, this tiny room served as my father's study, church office, and copy room. Each week, in addition to all the responsibilities my Dad had in preparing a sermon, visiting the sick, discouraged and faithless, he also wrote church bulletins and ran them through that copy machine across the hall from the living room.

While I was watching the home video I noticed my father comment, under his breath, I wonder if we could just change a couple things on this program and make it our bulletin for Sunday.  Yep, here he was getting ready to walk his daughter down the aisle on Saturday and still needed to prepare a sermon -- and a bulletin -- for Sunday.  

And it dawned on me.  This has been my life.  It's in my DNA -- doing the work of worship, which is most often tedious and messy and unnoticed.  Maybe I'm a long-lost descendant of the tribe of Levi.  If that is true, then it's very good for me to remember the history of worship servants. The Hebrew word, abad, designates the Levitic work of worship in lighting lamps, burning incense, preparing animals for sacrifice.  Sweaty, messy, dutiful worship.  

The Levites lugged bloody blades and animal hide; I have to worry about melty candle wax.

We've come a long way, baby.

photo credit: Anthony Allen


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