The sky is blazing with stars the day before Christmas Eve.
I am working my second job, pizza delivery. Between the two jobs, I’ve worked fifty-five, sixty hours the past couple weeks. I’ve stopped counting.
“What does Jesus want for Christmas?” I ask the kids at our midweek program. The answers vary: an Xbox, a Bible, world peace. We decide at the end that Jesus wants the hungry to have food, for everyone to have enough. And Jesus wants time with us, I tell them.
We have lit our Advent wreath sporadically, Josh and I. Some days, we read the passage, pray something from the Book of Common Prayer that looks beautiful and not too long. I bought a devotional on December 15th and read two, three entries a day to make up for lost time. I have not sat and prayed by the light of the tree. I have not listened to The Messiah while I baked or wrapped.
I have written cards to the kids, baked biscotti and made gift bags for the volunteers, unpacked wise man costumes, taught songs, written bulletins, compiled brochures. I have cut pizzas and sauced wings and taken Pepsis out of the cooler. I have delivered dinner to people in luxury townhouse complexes and on streets with names like “Vereda Mar del Sol” and “Ocean Air Drive.”
It is cold the day before Christmas Eve, at least cold for Southern California. I can see my breath in the air. I get in my car, load the pizza, and turn on the radio.
It takes me a moment to realize, but it is Handel’s Messiah playing on our NPR station. I have been busy, too busy today to read these Scriptures. But as I drive, KPBS San Diego sings the good news to me. “He shall purify the sons of Levi,” they sing. “For unto us a child is born,” they sing. “Glory to God, glory to God in the highest,” they sing.
As I walk to the house, I can’t help but look up. I can see a hundred stars from on the top of the mesa. Not the star of Bethlehem, but the Little Dipper, Big Dipper, the North Star, Casseiopeia. Glory, I think. Glory.
The sky is blazing with stars on New Year’s Eve.
I am working, again. The tips are good, again. “You have to work on New Year’s, huh?” people ask me at their door. I do not feel ready for a new year, the year I will turn thirty. I have made no resolutions, no goals, no New Year’s phone calls to friends on the East Coast at 9:00 our time. I am set to work until 11:00, but I can leave at 10:00.
I drive the twenty minutes to my church, where there is a game night going on. I make it just in time for the small service we have to watch for the New Year. There are twelve of us, and we read the Scripture about the New Jerusalem and the Scripture about the sheep and the goats, the one where Jesus says, “What you do for the least of these, you do to me.” We pray that we will remember this. An eight-year-old asks God to help him stop fighting with his sister. A grandmother asks for grace to accept where she is, to love others doing the job she’s doing. Then we sit quiet, and we can hear the clock in the back, ticking away 2012, and each second seems holy.
At the end of the hour, we circle around the bread and the cup. The pastor uses no book, just tells the story, and we pass the cup, one to another. We serve each other, the grandmother and the eight-year-old, the young couples and the older single man. We feed each other as the clock strikes twelve.
As we finish, firecrackers begin to burst outside. Whether you know or not, they seem to say, something has happened.
There is glory here. I am not prepared, not quiet, not ready, but there is glory anyway
It comes to Simeon and Anna, watching for it in the temple as long as they can remember. And it comes to the shepherds in the fields, who weren’t watching for anything but the sheep.
It comes to me, with my wise men costumes and my extra-large pizzas and my cluttered heart.
Glory, I think. Glory.