|Certainly not Friday, instead another angel who tried|
our Nativity Photo Booth at St. Paul's Walla2
The office was closed for Thanksgiving, yet she went into the church office to take care of some paperwork. The automatic phone answering system rang through to her office. She glanced at the caller-id, which said ‘hospital’. She picked up the handset. “
Is, is this Pastor Wendy?” the caller asked. “Yes, how can I help you?” she replied. “My name is Charlotte, and I just had a baby, and I named her Friday. And she, Friday is, well she is your granddaughter."
"And um, she is fine, but when I was leaving the hospital my car, it was rear-ended. And now, so we are back in the hospital. I, I remembered that your son Max, he said you were a Pastor, and the nurse here at the hospital, she remembered you, and knew what church you are at.”
“And I am so glad I found you because, I have a new baby, and I don’t live here, and I cannot go home for a few days, and I don’t know anyone here, and I need help.”
My bible commentaries for the birth narrative from Luke are a rainbow of highlight colors and littered with years upon years of scribbles. I found myself coming to this sacred story wondering what more could be said? How many more five dollar words could be spilled about this holy birth? I have heard it dozens of time, so much so that I am hardly surprised at all. This Nativity is much like the parables Jesus will tell when he is older. The meaning is deep and startling wrapped in a starry night.
So I tell the story of our girl Friday to remind myself that this is a story about answering the call and loving the stranger. I tell the story of my friend, I tell the story of that strange and life changing call, to remind myself of how demanding and surprising and marvelous this holy night is.
Mary and Joseph and the shepherds had these astounding calls with dreams and choirs of angels. The innkeeper all he had was a knock on the door. All the cosmic fluff can be a diversion from the heart of this Christmas story. The surprise is that the birth of Jesus invites us to forget about a God of shock and awe. It invites us to instead listen for his subtle knocks at our doors. In Jesus God puts on flesh and moves into the neighborhood. God is knocking at the door, he is ringing a tiny bell and whispering in our ears.
Christmas is a sign post about the present state of the universe. It is about you and me and what we love and how far we are willing to bend that we might be made new. My friend “Pastor” Wendy and her husband, they brought this stranger, this young mom and this baby home. And the story, yes it checked out: they do have a granddaughter Friday. Can you be there with them in the startling strangeness of such surprise guests, who you had no idea about and one who turns out to be so precious? Now, can you dive deeper still, to be there in that stable? Can you find yourself as the innkeeper, or the manger or the hay or the stars or the donkey or anyone else in the gospel?
In the first months of her life with her mom in recovery, baby Friday was often with us at the church. I remember holding her snuggly as we gathered in a dim nave to walk through the Christmas eve service. Much like the story of our savior’s birth, the tale is surprising and tender and comic, and so to, strung through with sadness and heartbreak. If you are familiar with fragile families, it won’t surprise you that their journey isn’t easy. What family’s journey is? Each and every day it demands a faithful imagination and love, endless holy love.
All stories of God’s faithful people, these stories we live are essentially remakes, at once imitating the one true performance of God in Christ, yet also an creative reliving of that one defining performance. “O holy child of Bethlehem, descend to us, we pray; Cast out our sin and enter in, be born in us today. We hear the Christmas angels the great glad tidings tell; O Come to us, abide with us, our Lord Emmanuel!” Merry Christmas!
Christmas Eve, 2014
5.30pm Family Service
St. Paul's Episcopal Church
Walla Walla, Washington, USA
The story is true, however the names have been changed .
I did however forget to record the audio. Sorry.
A big shoutout to an essay by Stanley Hauerwas in the essay collection Performing the Faith.