My New Year’s Eve post went out as scheduled last Sunday. Once I saw it, I started kicking myself.
I had taken the previous week off, so I reposted an old piece thinking my previous reflections on Epiphany (Star of Bethlehem) could best fill that space on the last day of the year.
On the threshold of a new year I missed an opportunity to hear from you.
(NEW YEAR’S RESOLUTION: Talk less, listen more; pontificate less, inquire more.)
Monday morning it dawned on me that although I had made a mistake, there was time to make amends.
Everybody makes mistakes. It’s what you do next that matters most.
* * *
Fortunately, I remembered that lesson ten years ago at a Christmas Eve family service.
Midway through the service the children left their pews and squeezed around the manger in the chancel, which was surrounded by a menagerie of stuffed animals brought out of storage just for that event. A grandmother read the Nativity Story. The children wriggled. We sang “The Friendly Beasts.” And then I cheerfully dismissed the cherubic children.
As the children merrily scrambled back to their parents, I spied one child clutching a bear he’d taken from the nativity scene.
HE STOLE IT.
I stopped him and snatched said bear from his hands.
Sorry, Michael, that’s the church’s bear, not yours.
I returned it to the chancel.
WHERE IT BELONGED.
Michael burst into tears and raced back to his mother. Sobbing.
I FELT LIKE SHIT.
The world’s worst pastor.
He’ll hate me. He’ll hate the church. He’ll hate baby Jesus. He’ll hate God for the rest of his life. He’ll become a sociopath.
ALL BECAUSE OF ME.
The service continued with carols and readings, but my mind was elsewhere—reeling in remorse, kicking myself. And then I remembered: The service isn’t over, and Michael is still in the building.
The clock was ticking. My mind was flailing.
I pronounced the benediction, fetched the bear from the chancel, walked up the aisle, reached into the pew where Michael was, and handed the bear to him.
Michael, please take care of this bear until next Christmas.
I patted his head.
He beamed and hugged the bear.
* * *
Two Sundays ago (December 24) I posted “Keep Hope Alive.” Last Sunday (December 31) I should have asked:
How will YOU keep hope alive in 2024?