The Tenth Day of Christmas: Elf Hats, Broken Candles, and Leftover S’Mores

I’m staring at a blinking cursor on a blank white screen, and wondering why it is so hard to make a beginning. I haven’t preached or blogged in nearly two weeks. You’d think i would be just FULL of good news, articulate responses to world events, and witty observations of human behavior. Well, I may be full of something, but today, it is neither wit nor wisdom.

On the contrary, writing is like excercise. The more you do it, the easier it is. Fall out for a few days, and it seems nearly impossible to lace up again and just go. The enormity of taking off is overwhelming. Better to head back to the couch and nest in for the long haul than to take those first few stiff and achy steps…

So, here is my warm-up. I will tell you what it is like to walk into the pastor’s life the week following Christmas. You look around and think, ‘what unholy thing has taken place in my office? What homeless person has been living out of my car?’ and ‘where in the world am i going to start putting it all back right again?’

My friend Kara walked into her church on Monday and thought, for a moment, that thieves and ransacked her office. The detritus of communion leftovers, sermon notes, elf hats, candles, and god-knows-whatall…well, that is the pastor’s New Year hangover, in a nutshell. (Yes, that is the only kind of hangover we get, ever.) My own mess looked much the same, but account for the fact that I have two small children who add cookie crumbs, errant mittens, and an assortment of preschool crafts involving glitter and pine cones, and well, I pretty much wanted to phone in before I’d even started yesterday. That, or just walk in with an enormous trash bag and sweep in the lot. (note: I opted for pretty much the latter).

Yes, the busier our lives, the more we tend to leave a trail of chaos in our wake. Who has time to file sermon notes between Advent 4 and Christmas Eve? Who has time to clean up from the neighborhood bonfire? Why not just eat the leftover Hershey bars and make life easier for everyone? And who in the civilized world has a moment to lovingly pack away every finger-paint handprint turkey and frosted pinecone ornament that comes trotting in from preschool?

And so it comes to pass that, in the days following the birth of our Lord and Savior, the men and women of God face the new year, not with a fount of scriptural wisdom to pour forth from the pulpit, but holding an empty garbage bag and wondering how a season so blessed and joyful can produce such an epic lot of mess.

But the thing is to start somewhere. And so i picked through, one notecard, one treat bag, one stack of books at a time. And today, I can see my desk. Today, I can form a sentence. Today, I can put on my trail runners and begin again, up into the foothills of whatever marathon the next season holds.

Today is January 3. I feel like I missed the boat on all sorts of beginnings because I was digging out from under the tail end of the last big thing. But here’s the good news (oh, look! I have good news, after all): You don’t need a calendar date to change your life. Though January might give us a good jumping off point, you can take any moment of the year to be kinder, more fit, more intentional, more organized, more present, more grateful, and a better steward.  A new year is no more a blank slate than a new week, a new day, a new moment of life. It’s all a gift.

Start somewhere. Through the clutter and chaos, find the clean surface; through bad weather or fatigue, hike the first mile; through all kinds of baggage and bad attitude, begin to mend the relationship. Even if it’s hard to shape the first word or find the beginning thread, start somewhere, and see what good news unfolds from the mess.

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About Erin Wathen

Rev. Erin Wathen is the Senior Pastor of Saint Andrew Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in Olathe, KS (www.sacchome.org). She's a Kentucky native, a long-time desert dweller, and she writes about the sacred thread that runs through pretty much everything. For more info, click the 'about' tab above...

  • Bob

    The long holiday three week or so break, vacation, or time where your mind is not completely centered on the work at hand always leaves you somewhat depressed the first day back. It takes some longer to break away from the dol-dums depending upon the type of personality you are A or B. Many times in the Navy I had a 30 day leave and upon returning you were always asked how was leave, I always responded in a short concise manner “it was too short.” I look at life as a three leg stool 1. recreation 2. Work 3. Relationships and if any of the three legs breaks the stool falls down. So if you are correcting one leg of the stool, just don’t neglect the other two legs or the stool will fall over. So much for the ancient one who is just full of all of those old goodies we have learned as we traveled down the various roads of life and keep the three leg stool concept in mind as you travel down the roads of life. It has always worked for me.


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