December 25th, 2011

rose window

Home and dry

Managed to make it through the service tonight without a coughing fit. One overtook me just as we were heading for the doors. Good service, well attended. Good weather probably helped with that. I'm thinking that since the evening before = the day of, I could count Christmas Eve attendance in place of Sunday morning. Or would that lack integrity? As Screwtape says, "Nowhere do we tempt so successfully as on the very steps of the altar." Oh, well; probably won't go there.

Christus natus hodie

Got up way early this morning and got myself over to the church. Set up the chafing dishes. Made Christmas Hash. Put the ham in the other chafing dish. And people started to arrive.

Worship was uplifting. The choir sang, "The Birthday of a King." I asked the children what they got for Christmas and we talked about the gift that God gave that lasts for ever. I preached about "Peace on Earth." The Hymn of Response was, "I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day." Good stuff, good stuff.

We had a small crowd, but I was pleased to see that we had a number of young families with children who came to church on Christmas Day. Most of them scooted off immediately after worship to go home and open presents. The fact that they put God first warms my heart more than I can tell you. About thirty folks lingered over Christmas brunch. In addition to ham and Christmas Hash, we had a sausage and egg casserole, various pastries (including a really killer coffee cake!), a stollen. Lotsa good black coffee. It was a relaxed and friendly time. Just what Christmas oughta be.

And now, we are at home. I have made the Boozy Floozies. Beef stew is simmering in the crock pot. Zach is upstairs lingering over a good hot shower. There is a 3-D castle puzzle demanding attention this afternoon. And the Packers are playing!

Merry Christmas to all; and God bless us, every one.

On winning

The Packers went to 14-1 tonight and have home-field advantage throughout the playoffs. What's really bizarre is that over 15 games, the Packers have given up more yards than they've gained. How can you do that, and still win? Well, Aaron Rodgers threw for five touchdowns. Oh, and the Packers had zero turnovers and zero penalties. Their kicker ain't bad, either.

I would suggest that there's a lesson here for the Church. I hear all kinds of people say that the secret of ecclesiastical success is this, that, or the other thing. I think most of what people say in that regard is hooey. You've got to do what you do better than other people do what they do.

Yes, we lose people we shouldn't lose. Yes, it can be hard for newcomers to break the code and figure out the whole Christian thing. But people come and go no matter what we do, and being "seeker-sensitive" too often means just inventing a different (and far less adequate) culture to incarnate the message. Success is preaching the gospel. Success is being faithful. Success is meaning the vows you took once upon a time (this applies to both clergy and laity) and still meaning them. Success means interpreting the sacraments, not redesigning them. Success takes a lot of prayer. Success requires a lot of time to develop relationships.

If you do the important stuff right, it doesn't matter if there's other stuff that you don't do very well.

Get over it, Newt

Newt Gingrich is all upset because his campaign has failed to get enough signatures to qualify for the Virginia primary ballot. This is a very big deal and a major crimp in his campaign. He is currently whining that obvious major candidates (like himself) shouldn't have to be bothered with this.

But failing to get enough signatures shows that your organization is bush league. It's the very antithesis of being a major candidate. Being the best talker on the rubber chicken circuit will only get you so far. Campaigning is about showing that you can get things done, even mundane things like getting X-many qualified signatures to get put on a ballot.

Governing is also about getting mundane things done. It's about organization, working the system, being disciplined and knowing how to get the best out of your staff. Gingrich's tenure as Speaker of the House showed that this was not his strong suite as a leader. It's why those who have worked with him directly in the past damn him by their faint praise. This is not jealousy on their part, it's experience.

In politics, as in sports, winners want to get ready for the next play, while losers always want to argue the last one.