An abortive trip to the UPS store -- it's just too long and boring a story to relate here -- plunged me into an orgy of self-recrimination: Why did I drag my feet? Why did I not attend to all this sooner? Why haven't I done more to ready the little house for Christmas? Custom after custom has crumpled to the ground this year -- there will be no New Year's party, no Christmas dinner. Not a cookie has been baked. Few gifts have been bought. Our tree is one of those lighted ceramic ones that old people have.
Oh. That's must be it -- I must have crossed over without properly marking the change. Because it's not the case that I long to do all these things and haven't the strength. It's that I no longer wish to do them at all. The stripped-down domestic Christmas has become immensely soothing to me, and the bustle has become impossible. Others will have to do it if it's important that it be done at all, and for the most part, it is not.
The church is the place in which I want to prepare. The artwork for the service leaflets -- a different painting for the cover image of each one, the choosing of which has become an important part of my sermon portion each week. The toy drive, the new youth choir, the populating of the creche with animals brought by the younger children, the beautiful new altar frontal that has arrived in time for Christmas -- it is these things that I want this year.
And I want the story. I want to ready myself to tell it again and tell it well. I want to receive it. I want the comfort of prayer more, and I am praying more. I want the music, and have surrounded myself with it for days. I want the people who come to me for help to get it. The church people have been overflowing with the joy of giving service this year. My principal task and my principal joy has been to encourage them.
In aging, we move closer to heaven. Closer in time to the life in which there is no time. This world's pull on us is lessened, and the next world flashes us hints of its beauty. We detach a bit from this one, so that we will, be able to leave it serenely. We enjoy its pleasures, but we no longer need to manage them. Every lovely thing with which the world presents us is a gift; we have only to receive.
Break forth, O beauteous heavenly light,
And usher in the morning;
O shepherds, shrink not with afright,
But hear the angelís warning.
This Child, now weak in infancy,
Our confidence and joy shall be,
The power of Satan breaking,
Our peace eternal making.
-- Johann Rist, 1641