The last Sunday of the year is often one that feels ‘dialed in.’ Clergy and choirs are tired, people are traveling, and the number of people at mass is significantly lower than Christmas Eve. The lectionary even seems to play along, by repeating the Gospel (plus four verses) from Christmas Day, as if to say to preachers go ahead and preach your Christmas Day homily.
But I was pleasantly surprised. Good crowds for the final Sunday with tots of visitors, mainly visiting family members from out-of-town. I even preached a different homily from Christmas Day! I love the Prologue to John’s Gospel and we all could write a different sermon every week on it. I chose to focus again on the themes of light and dark.
At the sung mass I was pleased to see Eric and Brandie Grubb. Eric is in his final year at seminary and was once an intern at St Timothy’s. I am very fond of the Grubb’s and am honored to have played a small role in his formation. Even though they are not official members of the parish, I count them as a part of the extended family. We had visits from three former members/interns the past two weeks who are either now ordained or currently in seminary.
We took the Grubb’s to lunch and talked about the Church, job prospects, and generally solved all the world’s problems. Not too bad over a cup of tomato bisque. The children were with me, as my wife had worked the night before and had to work that night, and I carried them along for a pastoral visit at a parishioner’s home. They’re good kids and dutifully sat in the car while I made the visit.
Visiting in a church my size (around 1,000 members) is quite different from visiting when I first started. A Roman Catholic priest friend of mine has a parish of about 3,000 families and he is the only priest. He told me that he tells his people he is like the 82nd Airborne, when they are in crisis, he will parachute in. The rest of the time he has to rely on lay help to visit and care for the faithful. He’s certainly not being lazy, there’s just no other way. I only have 400-500 families and I, too, feel like the pastoral care I can provide is more emergency response rather than well-visits and check-ins. This is not something I celebrate or desire, but rather it is the reality. When I first started, I had nothing else to do but randomly check in on folks and sit on front porches and shoot the breeze. Now I think many would scratch their head at a random visit from the rector and our doors are closed and our porches are on the backside.
When we got home, my daughter and I went to the gym. I don’t want to be that guy who goes back to the gym on January 1. So I went on December 30. The evening was filled with domestic duties and responsibilities. Since the St Stephen’s Office keeps the First Sunday after Christmas as the Feast of the Holy Family, I did the regular Prayer Book office.
No one has asked this question, but let me explain why I always mention when and how I say the office daily. Years ago, the inestimable Canon Jeremy Haselock would post pictures of his gourmet Sunday lunch on Facebook. Somehow during a conversation he told me that he would post those pictures to prove that one could go to church on Sunday and prepare a fine meal. He was the Vice-Dean of an English Cathedral and still prepared an enviable plate. It was a response to many who would say they couldn’t come to mass because they had to prepare dinner for guests and family.
I write about praying the Office not because I’m Captain Pious (I’m not), but because I live a regular life with professional and domestic demands too and I want, not to shame, but to promise that daily prayer can be fit into one’s life.