The Norman Transcript

December 20, 2013

Season is filled with surprises

By Amy Venable
The Norman Transcript

NORMAN — We’re getting to that point in the Advent Season or, well, fine, OK, Christmas season (even though it’s not officially Christmas for another five days) when the pressure seems to be on.

We’re running out of days to shop, we’re running out of free time to sit down and write out Christmas cards, we’re running out of moments to run to the post office and mail the package to our cousin stationed abroad and we’re running out of time to create the absolutely perfect Pottery Barn/Martha Stewart model home and lawn. Right? Perfection. Will we achieve it this Christmas, or will this holiday be a complete and utter failure?

The nurse at a doctor’s office yesterday asked me if I was ready for Christmas. I just sat there for a long moment and said, “I’m not sure how to answer that question.” I don’t know if she remembered that I was a clergywoman or not, so I added, “There are five worship services between me and Christmas right now.”

She put the blood pressure cuff around my arm and said, “Five worship services? I’m talking about your family stuff.” I said, “Well, they’re a part of all of that.”

“And do you cook all day Christmas Eve?”

“Are you kidding?”

“Well, you have to have plenty to eat on Christmas.”

“That’s what Crock-Pots are for. I spend most of Christmas Day incoherent.”

She looked puzzled, so I said, “We have three church services on Christmas Eve: 5 o’clock, 7 o’clock and 11 o’clock.” Her eyes glazed over.

I said, “The neat thing is my family comes to all three services with me and they help out.” And fortunately, between the good people at Hickory Farms, something I’ve thawed and the pie my mother usually makes ahead of time, we get fed.

It’s true that Christmas Eve is super-busy for my family, but my family wouldn’t have it any other way. They want to be a part of things here at St. Stephen’s all afternoon and evening, or else they would really feel like they were missing something.

I’m very fortunate to have family who is willing to help take up the offering, play the piano, put on a costume, sing in a choir or run over and turn off the lights when we sing “Silent Night” if someone forgets to do it.

So, on Christmas Day, the smoky cheese and summer sausage find their way onto crackers as we open gifts as lazily as we choose and eventually watch a movie or two. Christmas Day is not about perfection, whatsoever. Frankly, neither is Christmas Eve.

You never know what the weather is going to do, who will show up at church or who might get invited over for dinner in between services. That actually happened one time, and the poor person had to eat warmed-over pizza and some semi-hard croissants because that’s all I had in the fridge.

I didn’t know another Venable had invited him to come to my house, but it was really fun. I think we found enough candy to round out the meal.

You never know what will go wrong, but you also never know what will go right. Last Christmas Eve, a mysterious man walked into the church and handed me a check for $5,000 and told me the church could spend it any way we chose. That same night, a person who had been in ICU for more than a month felt well enough to come to the 7 p.m. service.

And when a wise man was called into work duty at the last minute, a doting grandfather jumped into a costume at 4:54 p.m. and rounded out our 5 p.m. nativity scene.

I’m getting to the age where I treasure the little things that don’t go as planned. Christmas surprises make for much better stories, after all. Perfection is all about me and my need to control … letting surprises happen is all about letting God work here, too. I wish you a Christmas season filled with surprises.

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