Christmas Eve

My goal yesterday was to go to four carol services and one lovely dinner with friends.  It ended up being 3 and 1.  And what adventures I had!

Stop number one was a service at Belmont United Church at 10:45 am.  Oh we sang, as did the choir.  My favourite moment was when the minister stood in front of us.  He’s retiring next week.  He told the church members that he had made mistakes as their spiritual leader, and with his hand on his heart, asked for their forgiveness.  A stunning moment in time.  He was so genuine and so naked before us.

Service number two was out in the country near Belmont, Ontario, at St. James Presbyterian Church.  I didn’t expect to know anyone.  As I sampled the goodies laid out before the service, a fellow in a clerical collar approached me in welcome.  A lovely thing to do.  He was perhaps 70.  Minutes later, a woman probably in her 30’s came by to talk.  Her last name was the same as the minister’s, and I blurted out unthinkingly, “I just met your husband.”  “Oh … that was my dad.”  My yappy internal voice launched into “Bruce, you’re so stupid.  Look at the age difference.”  But then a remarkable thing happened:  My quiet voice simply said “It’s all right, Bruce.  You’re a human being and you made a mistake.”  And poof!  My embarrassment and fear disappeared.  Magical.  And I’m so blessed that sometimes I can pull myself out of prolonged pain.

An old colleague of mine invited me to sit with her and her family during the service.  More bold singing filled the sanctuary.  At the end, Elizabeth asked me what I was doing on Christmas Day.  I said “Nothing”, which is true.  After an exploratory conversation on her part, she invited me to Christmas dinner.  My mind raced.  I sure didn’t want anyone feeling obligated to have me.  At the same time, here was a woman offering me a gift.  What a disservice it would have been to say no.  So 5:00 pm today finds me in a lovely home with an old friend and some new ones.

Dinner at Leah’s place.  What an amazing chef she is.  Drop the librarian job, my friend, and open your own restaurant.  I had a great time with her family and a “bestie” couple.

My wife Jody and I enjoyed watching “The Polar Express” just before Christmas, but since she died I haven’t seen the film.  It makes me sad.  So what does Leah do after supper but pull out the book and read us the story!  Someone somewhere (my dear wife, I expect) is looking after me.

I had a phone call scheduled with my friend Sarah in New York City.  We met during the three-month meditation retreat.  I had promised to recite “Twas The Night Before Christmas” … normal speed and super fast.  So I did it, drawing forth little squeaks and laughter from Sarah and her roommate.  It made me happy to make my friend happy.

We were having a snowstorm and I decided during the call to skip my last plan of the day: going to a carol sing in the Old St. Thomas Church, circa 1824, 20 kilometres away.  It’s a beautiful old white building … and unheated!  After I hung up, I sat on the couch, my face tightening.  I remembered when Jody and I were visiting her brother Lance and his family in Drayton Valley, Alberta one winter.  We were staying in a motel and one night around 3:00 am Lance phones and says “You have to get up and see the Northern Lights.  They’re spectacular!”  Drowsily, I thanked him and pulled up the covers.  (Sigh)

“Not this time, Bruce.”  So I headed out into the weather, armed with a toque, mitts and four layers of warm stuff.  An hour later, thirty of us held candles and songsheets.  I blasted out the bass part of “O Come All Ye Faithful” with breath before my eyes and heart soaring.

It was a day.

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