I confess that I am nearly done with Christmas shopping. I need to make three more stops and then I’m done.
I confess that my job with regard to shopping for my two sons has always been the Dollar Store. The strategy behind this was drawn from the fact that the first four Christmases of each of our boy’s lives, they spent more time playing with the boxes and packaging than any of the toys we gave them (anyone else experience this?). Kristin does the shopping for the main gifts. She puts a lot of thought into it, taking into account what the boys enjoy, what they need, and what they will actually use most often. Her gifts nearly always pan out in the long term, but they sometimes lack the short term excitement. So, I buy about $15 worth of complete junk at the dollar store for each boy and inevitably, these are the things they are all excited about on Christmas morning. This initial reaction can be a sore spot between my children’s two parents – but it’s short lived. Because the boys play with the cheap gadgets and toys for about a half an hour, by which time all of the dollar store gifts are either broken, or don’t work anymore (if they ever worked at all). Then they settle down to learn how to play the game, solve the puzzle, read the book, or engage with the gift that they will truly like for the next few years. I confess that I love the Dollar Store responsibility. It’s the one area of my life where I don’t have to care about the long term.
I confess that I’ve been breaking Sabbath for the past six weeks. I confess that it began because I was taking that day to write, so I could finish my edits for this new manuscript. That project is close to ready, so I moved on to other pressing concerns. I’ve been trying to write the messages for yesterday’s service, next week’s service, and Christmas Eve all in the same short time frame so that I can actually take some time off during the coming week. I’ve been wondering why I always do this to myself. I confess to a deep struggle with keeping a healthy pace of life. I know that more than anything else, this issue will make or break me. I’m not sure I’ve made any confession as often to my own church as my confession that I struggle with busyness and the inability to rest. I know that our ability to rest, to find space for silence, solitude, and unscripted engagement with the world is directly linked to our ability to access a place of wonder, mystery, and awe – which is, after all, the whole ever-freaking point. I confess that the thought that helps the most is that I know I’m not alone. I confess that the thought that plagues me the most is that I am still trying to live in a world without limits.
I confess that the Christmas Eve sermon comes with a certain amount of pressure. As I’ve been working on the message for this year, I realized that I’m still fairly inexperienced at writing a Christmas Eve message. This is only my 6th one I’ve done. I don’t know many things that I’ve only done six times and been proficient. I confess that part of what intimidates me about this particular message is that it is much shorter (we shoot for 15 minutes), and because all of our kids are in for the whole service, the dynamics are extremely different – probably not playing to my strengths, either. I think the main difference is that most of the time when I write a sermon, I’m trying to create a narrative ark. I’m looking for the tension between the world envisioned by scripture and our world. I’m drawing out the tension, accentuating it, and then looking for the surprising hope we draw from the story of God. In most sermons I’m trying to create a moment in which the story of God genuinely surprises us by it’s illogical and unexpected hope. Christmas Eve is so different because the task isn’t to generate the moment, the task is to try and stay out of the way of the moment, but still say something that seems to name our reality accurately. Basically the pastor’s job on Christmas Eve is: don’t blow it, but be profound at some point, and try to make us laugh without trying to be cute. I confess that I am gripping just a little bit.
I confess that I’m thinking about showing a video clip from Talladega Nights on Christmas Eve. The clip crushes it in terms of helping illustrate the main thing I want us to consider together, plus it’s funny. But I’m struggling to reconcile the irreverent humor with the reverence of the moment… I love both. Right now I’m leaning toward showing it… it’s Ricky Bobby, right? He’s a genius. Maybe I can start with a little irreverent humor, and then move us to a more reverent place? I confess that this could be a bad decision.
I confess that I will probably struggle to be faithful to Paperback Theology over the coming week. I have posts planned for every single day, but chances are I will not follow through with many of them. Nevertheless, I’m expecting all of you to click on at least 25 past Paperback Theology posts each day, so that I can keep my numbers up, and get my check at the end of the month… my kids gotta eat, too. Or you could just pick one or two favorites and email them to your friends. We need some new blood around here.
I confess that I hope you all have a Merry Christmas. I pray that you will find peace, not just personally but peace in the way you relate to other people as well. I pray that the story of the God who is with us will surprise you once again on Christmas Eve. I pray that you will all experience moments that are good and deep and rich and even holy, and that the food, drinks, and conversation won’t run out too early.
Okay friends, I’ve made my confession… now it’s time for you to make yours: