Last night was an annual Christmas program/benefit concert at our parish, to benefit the St. Louis Center, a group home for developmentally disabled adults. It was a real family affair: Craig sang in the choir, Chris and Sarah sang in the children’s choir (necessitating FOUR costume changes in that 80 minute span), and I wrote a little poem for the occasion (a link to it is in the sidebar).
To be honest, the whole thing was a family affair in other ways as well. As the priest observed in the homily that morning, “You can pick your friends, but you can’t pick your family. You don’t get to pick your biological family, and you can’t pick your spiritual one, either.”
So true. To be part of the Church is to have to deal with individuals who are not exactly fun to be around all the time. They can be territorial or wishy-washy, unreasonable or rigid. Straight-shooters get irritated with the passive-aggressives. “Traditionals” get miffed with the “touchy-feelies.” And then there’s the whole issue of music: Gregorian chant, Twila Paris, and everything in between.
Last night’s pageant was a good example of the best and worst of parish life: The program was changed over and over, even at the dress rehearsal. The director complained at having so much to do on one hand … and rejected our efforts when we pitched in to help. Best of all, the program was scheduled on the final day of Christmas break, to begin after most kids should have been in bed, getting a good night’s rest before school the next day.
Ah, yes. Family.
And yet, there are great joys as well. Four costume changes in eighty minutes … but Sarah was the epitome of saucy in her little French beret, and Christopher stole the show as he stood front and center in his jacket and ascot (this was for the “British” scene), spread his feet, stuffed his hands in his pockets, and threw back his head to belt out “Joy to the World” at the top of his lungs.
I got stomach flu two days before the performance, and didn’t think I should attempt to bake a “Japanese Christmas cake” and spread my contagion to the entire parish, so I did the unthinkable … called a bakery. Turned out the baker knew how to make a Chinese New Year’s cake, complete with strawberry filling and gold coins, and “Happy New Years!” written in Mandarin in scarlet red butter cream. Better than I could have done any day of the week, and all I had to do was let go and DELEGATE! (Okay, and write a check, but I was going to do that for the benefit anyway…)
Craig had an epiphany as well: Torn between an impossible work deadline and singing in the choir, he chose … to go ahead and sing in the concert. “I’ve been practicing for three months for this thing. Work could wait an hour!” I was never so proud of him.
The Wise Men had to wander across deserts and down winding back paths to locate the Prize they had been seeking all their lives. They expected royalty … and got a stable. They sought a king … and found an anonymous family who took their gifts and vanished into the night. As we disassemble the tree and get ready to put the creche back in the box, let’s take our cue from the Magi, and be willing to wander down a few unexpected pathways in order to find the Truth our soul craves.
Happy New Year!