Today I begin to stack my office with pottery for the UM Center employees. Tonight I will give away nearly a hundred little angel ornaments to the active and retired clergy of the Columbia District. They look a little funky. Hey, I tried making elaborate angels with tipped multilayered wings but the angles on those angels (pun intended) about ruined my Advent hope. Those wings were impossible! Instead I opted for simple angels which my children say look more like plump bald ghosts or mini-me’s that they have dubbed “Timanents” because I more than vaguely resemble the aforementioned description. Ha!
I wanted to start over, recycle the clay, REPENT! Too late, today’s the day and tonight’s the night. I got rushed with the gifts for the UM Center, Cabinet, and family, too. I panicked enough that I pressed Caleb and Josh into service. They helped me glaze and let’s just say that we ended up with some color combinations that stretch the notion of a pleasing color spectrum. Sunday afternoon, out of sheer disgust, I hosed off the unfired glaze from the few remaining pieces so they can dry and I get a do-over before our family Christmas gathering on the 22nd. On top of all this my impatience got exacerbated when one of my kiln’s thermocouples failed. I have rebuilt that kiln for nearly 2 decades but I have never had to replace a thermocouple. Shudder!
Anyway, the parts have come in and I now have to get up my nerve to deal with ELECTRICITY. Please pray for the gift recipients of this “Charlie Brown Christmas.” I repent, I repent, and I repent some more. I should have paced myself enough to enjoy the artistic process, used careful planning and execution to get the glazes right, and factored in the possibility of equipment failure. But, no…… and I’m caught. Today it begins, ready or not! Repentance without reformation is the definition of stupidity. Saying “I’m sorry,” without any change in behavior is a pretty transparent failure to the dear woman who married me 37 years ago. I can say that I’m sorry that I didn’t get ready for Advent/Christmas, and Jesus’ First or Second Coming, but there’s that point in time when time runs out! A feeble last second “Sorry!” doesn’t cut it unless I change my ways and get my act together.
A friend of mine, Dr. Jim Harnish, who is Senior Pastor of Hyde Park UMC in Tampa, Florida, has a Garrison Keillor Christmas story he likes to use during Advent. It’s about people making their reluctant trek back to Lake Wobegon for Christmas. They have moved away, become smart and sophisticated, but they nevertheless make their way back home. Many annually go to Christmas Eve Mass and listen to Father Emil at Our Lady of Perpetual Responsibility Catholic Church. Every year he blasts them for not living up to their vows, in spite of it being Christmas Eve.
Others go to Lake Wobegon Lutheran Church. One of Keillor’s classic descriptions is about Larry Sorenson’s annual Christmas visit to church: “Larry the Sad Boy was there, who was saved twelve times in the Lutheran Church, an all-time record. Between 1953 and 1961, he threw himself weeping and contrite on God’s throne of grace on twelve separate occasions – and this in a Lutheran church that wasn’t evangelical, had no altar call, no organist playing ‘Just As I Am Without One Plea’ while a choir hummed and a guy with shiny hair took hold of your heartstrings and played you like a cheap guitar – this is the Lutheran Church, not a bunch of hillbillies these are Scandinavians, and they repent in the same way that they sin: discreetly, tastefully, at the proper time, and bring a Jell-O salad for afterward. Larry Sorenson came forward weeping buckets and crumpled up at the communion rail, to the amazement of the minister, who had delivered a dry sermon about stewardship, and who now had to put his arm around this limp, soggy individual and pray with him and see if he had a ride home. Twelve times. Even the fundamentalists got tired of him. Granted, we’re born in original sin and are worthless and vile, but twelve conversions are too many. God didn’t mean us to feel guilt all our lives. There comes a point when you should dry your tears and join the building committee and start grappling with the problems of the church furnace and the church roof and make church coffee and be of use, but Larry kept on repenting and repenting.”
Jim Harnish and my pottery dilemma 2012 remind me that Advent is a time of repenting; but it’s also an urgent call to rise up from repenting and be of use! So wail I will for more than a few moments about things I shouldn’t have done or left undone, but the time has come TODAY to move on and really do something to get ready for Jesus. Talk is cheap and I owe the Birthday Boy more than that!