My car crept along the snowy, slippery roads toward the nursing home. Unlike normal, I was not racing to get to the morning worship service at the last minute. I had allowed an abundance of time so that I wouldn’t have to rush. Snow and ice on the roads is terrifying to me and I drive with a whole lot of caution.
Still, I ended up arriving one minute before the service was to start. I’ve led a monthly nursing home worship service for most of my ministry and I bet the average time I arrive beforehand is less than five minutes. It’s a small group that gathers for this weekly service led by different area pastors each week.
There is no musician of any kind who comes to accompany our singing, but we sing anyway. It reminds me of a Saturday Night Live skit as I (who am a quiet, off-key singer) lead this group in singing. I have to sing as loudly as I can into the microphone so they can hear where we are at in the song – but some still can’t hear anything and so our hymns turn into sort of a peculiar little round with some stopping and starting verses at their own pace.
I preach the sermon from the past Sunday, or if I already have a sermon ready for the coming Sunday, I will preach that. However, it is only 1.5% of the time I am ready with a sermon for Sunday by Thursday morning.
The people at this service are so sweet. They are warm and appreciative and kind. One lady grabs my hand to shake it and then she kisses it. She does this every time I am there and I subsequently feel like the Pope.
While I don’t arrive early to mingle with folks, I do stay afterward and visit for a while. Today when we visited after the service we talked about the weather. They asked how the roads were and I was happy to tell them about my bravery in driving through the treacherous drifts to get to them.
One by one, the Activities Director took each of the worship attenders down the hall to lunch. I washed out the communion cup, put the communion wafers back into a baggie, put on my coat and headed outside.
The wind was brushing the snow into hard, squiggly waves on the ground. I paused to fish my phone out of my pocket and took a picture of it.
Advent Reflection – December 10, 2014
So far, what have I done that has made this Advent season different than any other? Let’s see, I have been slowly feeding my “piggy bank” for ELCA World Hunger. I found a five-dollar bill in the cemetery the other day and put it in the World Hunger piggy bank instead of using it to buy myself a latte – so that felt like a step in the right direction. However, we entirely forgot to light our home advent wreath this past Sunday. I’ve written some Advent devotions for this blog but I’ve also had just as many days that I ran out of time or energy or inspiration and called on other writers and blogs or just didn’t do anything. So far, Advent is looking a lot like every other church season – a season of stops and starts, a time of victories and failures. It turns out that I prepare about as well for the birth of Jesus as I prepare for anything – kind of last minute and haphazard – and please don’t look in my closet or under the beds because who knows the clutter and disarray you will find.
It is an imperfect Advent, an imperfect life. I can’t take comfort in that because I wish I could always fully complete all the grand plans and sacred endeavors I begin. If I could, I would weigh 125 lbs. and have written five books by now (all bestsellers). And yet, I do take comfort in this: there is some One greater at work in my life than me. There is a greater plan that has been devised than any I could dream. In some mystical and miraculous way, God has chosen me and you to participate in this plan, God’s plan. We won’t often understand how or why life unfolds as it does, and yet there are times we catch glimpses of the beauty and blessedness of it all. Maybe that will happen for you sometime this Advent season, maybe it won’t. Maybe Christmas morning will dawn with a fresh peace and renewed strength in your heart, or maybe you’ll wake up with the stomach flu and stay in bed all day. Either way, all is well, because this story we live is about more than you and me, what we do or don’t do, rather, it is about God’s story. We are part of it – and it is an immense gift. Our greatest task appears to be that we simply must open our eyes and see it.
Most afternoons these days I spend a little time sitting with one of our church members who is now on Hospice care at the Sunset Home. His remaining time on earth appears short. There is nothing fun about these days for him as his body and mind slowly fade. I don’t even know if he hears me when I read the scripture to him anymore – but I still read it and I pray out loud for him. It seems so stark and strange to walk past the festive lights and trees that are adorning the Sunset home these days and often the sound of cheerful carols coming from the chapel, to go into his quiet room where death is drawing near. Yet it strikes me that it is precisely in these moments of stark contrasts that we often sense the Spirit’s presence more closely than ever. Actually, I’ve come to realize that sitting in that room next to Earl and listening to him breathe with the sounds of the world going on outside has become what will set this Advent apart for me as blessed. It wasn’t the ritual I planned or expected, but in it, I have felt God’s presence. I’m so thankful for that.
Has God surprised you lately?
11 For surely I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans for your welfare and not for harm, to give you a future with hope.