Dear Messrs. Scrooge and Grinch

Dear Sirs,

It has come to my attention that perhaps you had it right all along, that is, before your impressive conversions.  Perhaps this joy we have manufactured for the Christmas holiday is just that – manufactured, like some piece of plastic that Airbrush Barbie will scoot around town in, like some small, flat rectangular thing, embossed with our name, that will drive up our debt load.

You see, I’m not feeling it all that much this year, and as I recall Mr. Grinch’s stealing of Christmas paraphernalia, I’m sensing a comrade.  As I picture Mr. Scrooge’s cold, dark mansion void of any glitter, tinsel, or bulb, a twinge of envy grows within me.

I believe we have confused things.  As I stood in line at the Dollar Tree, buying large gift bags to hold my purchases for the church’s Angel Tree, and as I heard the melodic voice of Gene Autry encourage us to “give thanks to the lord above, ’cause Santa Claus comes tonight”, I realized that I was done.

Which is to say, I am done with Santapalooza as a stand-in for Christmas.

On the one hand, Santapalooza is an opportunity to give something to someone as a token of appreciation or even love.  But on the other hand, those tokens become expressions of obligation and duty.  Santapalooza props up the disparities rampant in our capitalism-on-steroids.  We give charitably, thinking that a day’s moment of generosity makes up for systems of injustice that perpetuate racism and poverty.

Who’s the mean one now, Mr. Grinch?  Bah.  Humbug.

Christmas, though….  I’ll keep that, if we can strip away the wrapping paper and the stockings and wire-edged bows and all the sugar; if we can do away with presents that have no meaning; if we can spend just one day in celebration, or if that is too scant, spend twelve days that begin on the 25th and end, as they once did, on Epiphany, the season of light.  I’ll take the Christ Mass, the acknowledgement of the mystery of the Incarnation, the awe of light and love.  I’ll take the Word, full of grace and truth.  I’ll even take Baby Jesus, lying in the middle of the animal’s part of the home, carefully laid in a feeding trough, worried over by his father and mother, who soon will flee for their lives as refugees in Egpyt.

Mr. Grinch, I believe my own heart could grown three sizes too big if we could just separate these conjoined twins of Santapalooza and Christmas.  Mr. Scrooge, were that to happen, I would echo those true words of Tiny Tim, and with all my heart, ask God to bless us, every one.

But I will say in hope, and in confidence that all things are possible through Him who loves us, please God, bless us –

all those people standing in line at the Dollar Tree;
all those parents worrying that there won’t be enough for their kids under the tree;
all those people relying on the charity of others to get through the holiday;
all those people who don’t understand;
all those people who have lost their faith;
all the grieving, all the hopeless, all the sick, all the homeless;
all the rich, all the poor, all the waiting, all the wondering:

God bless us, every one.

 

Sometimes we have to let each other fail

Train_wreck_at_Montparnasse_1895My spouse and I are four and a half years into our adventure of co-pastoring.  Will it be our last such adventure?  I have no idea.  Other married co-pastors have written great things in the last four and a half years, and I am grateful for the wisdom they have shared.  As we move further along in this relationship, new and subtle facets of working together emerge, and I think about them, and sometimes share them my husband.

There’s a meeting tomorrow with the city about some of our building issues, and one of our great members is going and said one of us needed to go with him.  It’s in an area I’ve been working in.  As my husband and I were going over the calendar, he said, “I think both of us should go.”  It seemed a reasonable statement.

And then I started wondering.  Does he think I can’t manage it?  Because it deals with money and property, which are more his areas, does he want to be there?  Or really, does he think I can’t manage it?  When I told our member that both of us would be there, he said only one of us needed to be.  So I told my husband I would go, since this involves a project I’ve been working on.  But a larger question looms.

One of the benefits (I think) about having co-pastors is that you get people with complimentary gifts and skills.  In a nutshell, he does numbers and I do words.  More than fifteen minutes on a financial statement and my head starts to spin.  Writing a sermon, or a newsletter article, or an annual report is his idea of hell.  You get the picture.

Still, it occurred to me that for the sake of our pastorate – and probably our marriage – sometimes we need to let the other one fail, or not do as great a job, or work in those areas where we’re not as strong.  We won’t learn if we always let the other do the heavy lifting, whatever the area of work may be.  It may also be a good model for the larger staff or congregation, to explore what it means to be not-gifted at something, to struggle with something, or even to deal with that which is usually tedious or confusing.

Maybe it’s just that none of us can be strong and talented all the time; if we were, we’d be walking around like arrogant snobs.  Maybe.  Or maybe we would get out of touch with what it means to be ignorant (in the best sense of that word) or an amateur.  Maybe it would help us expect less, and encourage more.

So failure is an option.

But so is grace.