I missed the elusive Saturday bus and had to walk to the store.
The rain had not yet turned to snow; it was gathering into puddles wherever the sidewalk dipped, soaking the hems of my trousers. It didn’t look much like Christmas– but then it rarely does. We usually don’t get our heavy snows til January.
I like walking in LaBelle at Christmastime, whatever the weather. Nearly everyone puts up decorations. Some of the houses I thought were derelicts showed signs of human habitation, with Dollar Tree decals in the windows and “Santa Stops Here” signs on the lawn.
Santa is coming. Thanks to charities like The Friendship Room, he’s even coming to joyless streets like this.
Jesus Christ is also coming.
He is coming soon.
The rain had soaked the paper signs stapled to every light pole, advertising a local Protestant church called “Tower of Power” and its December 24th “explosive” Christmas service. They are preparing for the Lord’s birthday early, and taking Christmas day off, as is apparently the custom with some Protestant denominations.The signs promised that there will be music, praise, preaching, and “mime.” I’m planning to go there before my vigil liturgy if I can– if only to see how mimes are incorporated in a worship service. Besides, I’ve told my daughter that people who believe in the same God ought to pray together whenever they can agree to do so, no matter how much they disagree on other things.
There’s so little time for conflict, really. Jesus is coming soon.
The rain couldn’t dampen my spirits as I cut across LaBelle and through Pleasant Heights. Both neighborhoods looked like a children’s book of pictures for playing I Spy. Can you spot the gift-wrapped package, on the seat of a parked car? Can you spot the Nativity on the roof? Can you spot the plastic snowman in the grassy yard? I could. I spotted Christmas all around. I wanted to belt carols at the top of my lungs, but I needed the breath for walking.
Jesus is coming so soon.
The store was packed. People were bustling back and forth with stuffed shopping carts. Christmastime is more fun than Thanksgiving, for people-watchers like me. At Thanksgiving everyone buys the same things. Christmas is more diverse. Some people have turkey again; some have ham. Some have sausage and lasagna. Some still haven’t made up their minds, two days before Christmas.
No one seemed to know where anything was. I pointed out the spice rack to two different puzzled sets of husbands who were scratching their heads over shopping lists and trying to find basil and cinnamon among the salad dressings.
“Will you be my personal shopper? Can I just give you my list?” one of them joked.
I grabbed what I needed– a lemon, a carton of eggs, a ten-dollar bottle of white wine. I checked out and stuffed the wine bottle in my purse so it wouldn’t smash on the bus.I double-checked my list once more before getting on the bus. There wouldn’t be time to go shopping again.
Jesus is coming so soon.
The bus picked me up for the trip back to LaBelle. It was nearly full, and the bulk of everyone’s coats and shopping bags made it claustrophobic.
Two men who knew each other from a local church were talking.
“These are Revelation Times!” said one.
“I don’t know,” said the other. “There’s always been people who thought they were in Revelation Times. Our country’s been through worse. Think of World War Two. I don’t think it’s Revelation Times.”
“These are Revelation times! We’re in Revelation Times!”
“Now, we don’t know that,” said the man. “There have been people, they thought they knew the exact day. They had their pets put to sleep. They sold their houses. They thought they knew the day, but they didn’t know their Scripture. The Bible says not even the Son knows the Hour or the Day, only the Father.”
“These are Revelation Times! Pastor, he said these are Revelation Times!”
Of course these are Revelation Times. From Adam to Noah, Noah to Abraham, Abraham to Joseph the Bethrothed until now, there have only ever been Revelation Times. No one has ever had more than one lifetime before their personal end of days. What we are to be has not yet been revealed, but God has revealed Himself to us and reveals Himself anew every day– in the Holy Eucharist, in the Word of God, in the face of our neighbor who needs us, in our everyday experience of rainy sidewalks and Christmas lights. The judgement is at hand for each and every one of us, and may God have mercy on that terrible morning. The morning is coming soon.
“I knew of a man,” said the more verbose passenger. “He was at church, they had an altar call for everyone to get saved. He said ‘I’ll do it later.’ That night his car went over a guardrail. That was his last chance, and he’s in hell now.”
I couldn’t let that pass without comment. “There’s time to repent between the guardrail and death. We can’t know if he repented. We can’t despair of anyone’s soul.”
Then we were at my corner.
“Merry Christmas,” I said to the driver, and trudged back to my house.
The rain had turned to snow when my ride picked me up for Divine Liturgy. He came early; I barely had time to put my coat on. I nearly left the house with the wine still in my purse. I had time to pray alone before the icons before Liturgy began. I had time to admire the Nativity scene, all set up and ready but with no infant yet in the crib.
Jesus Christ is coming soon.
These are Revelation Times.
(image via Pixabay)