This weekend's visitors were not very welcome additions to what was going to be a very full and important weekend for me. I was excited for what the weekend held in store, unfortunately, none of the plans would work out as I, and others, had planned.
First, there was the wind-driven snow that blanketed our region on Friday night and Saturday morning causing us to postpone, until a later date, an important interview that a colleague and I were to conduct on behalf of the Commission on Leadership. It was an interview in support of one of our congregations' pastoral search, a very important part of that process. However, the snow and the wind disrupted travel, and all the plans related to that meeting and other related activities got shelved for the present time. It was a great disappointment on several fronts, and a long wait for one of our congregations was about to get longer. Our best laid plans don't always work out as we envision that they will, and that was only part one.
Thankfully, the snow subsided, and by mid-day on Saturday, my driveway had been scooped, just in time for the second weekend visitor. P.V., the Polar Vortex. I was undaunted by P.V. - after all, cold is cold, and -27 degrees is a mere number, right? Sunday morning, the roads were good and I confidently headed out, with my survival gear packed, to visit the saints in Brainerd. For several months, I have had December 18 on the calendar. Mark Ford had invited me to preach in Brainerd and I was looking forward to this visit. My trusty Mazda 3 ("Tank") was sailing along beautifully as I cruised Highway 23. The temperature was reading -27 as I slid through Cold Spring. I was making great time and P.V. was not going to break my stride, until that devious elf conspired with a third visitor, known as the "Check Engine Light" to scuttle the second part of my weekend.
"Tank" decided that it was time to slow me down. After 194,000 miles, my trusted road warrior companion decided for the first time ever, to flash the "Check Engine Light" while at the same time sending the temperature gauge into the danger range. Fortunately, I was only ten miles north of Saint Cloud on US-10, and even more fortunately, the place that services my car in Saint Cloud was open on a cold Sunday morning. Four hours later, I wandered out of Firestone with a new thermostat, and a commitment to the saints in Brainerd to have a make-up day early in 2017.
Yep, our best laid plans don't always work out as we envision that they will, but usually that means that something better or different is out there waiting to happen. This has been a strange Advent for me. Out of four Sundays, I have spent the last two of them in Firestone Auto Care facilities during the times that I had planned to be in congregations of this presbytery, and that leaves me feeling just a wee bit off center as I look forward to Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. I don't feel that I am as ready for Christmas as I normally would be, but then I realized that nothing was going to be normal for me on this Christmas Day, and maybe this crazy Advent has been God's way of preparing me for what shall be.
This will be our first Christmas without my dad. He died on Christmas Day 2015, and a trip to Milwaukee that would have celebrated his birthday last December, became a trip to celebrate his life and how that life shaped those of us who are his legacy. It also was a trip that reminded us about the significance of family and the bonds and love that we share with one another. This Advent, and the past two crazy Sundays have been very different, preparing me for the Christmas that will be different, but not in any sad or maudlin sort of way. Things the last couple of weeks have not gone as I planned, but I sense that it will be okay because of where it is that this Advent journey leads us, and it is the culmination of something which God has planned from the dawn of all being.
On Christmas, a significant part of God's plan again becomes our reality! It won't be stopped by a blizzard, the Polar Vortex, or a broken thermostat. It won't wait until we feel we are ready for it and it won't be rescheduled until a better time. It's going to happen because has determined that it will happen. On Christmas, we will celebrate God giving humanity the greatest gift imaginable - the gift of life, love, salvation, hope, and so much more wrapped in the incarnation of God's self. In the "fullness of time" - God's "kairos" time, God came among us to make life different, to make life better, to make live whole and meaningful. Yes, this has been a crazy Advent for me and I will approach it with a "dad-shaped" hole in my heart, but I will also approach it knowing that the love of God and the One who comes helps to tame the craziness and fill the holes in our hearts and souls with an incredible and awesome love.
On behalf of myself and all of us who serve you as the staff, officers, and leadership of the Presbytery of Minnesota Valleys, may you have a blessed and joyous Christmas, and may 2017 bring health and hope to us all!