It is at this time of year, and usually about this time of week in particular, when clergy around the world start to sink. Glug glug glug…
The lists have been made. And the sub-lists have been added. Highlighter pens may or may not have been used. On the lists there are things like “ORANGES – find out how many last year – ask for discount? – did I ask someone to make Christingles?” And “SERMONS X 5 – Midnight, Day, St John, Christmas 1,… what was the other one for?” Sometimes the lists get so messy they have to be re-written. This is a form of procrastination and is allowed. It is also permitted to put things on the second list that have already been done and which can be ticked or struck off straight away giving a huge amount of satisfaction. And the list is on paper, and on my computer, and on my phone, and on my iPad – and the list doth follow me everywhere and doth haunt me in the day and in the night.
Clergy live a kind of schizophrenic existence at this time. It is still Advent, yes. The church is purple, the music is Adventy, the end-times are being pondered. Then clergy sit at the computer and design the Christmas Day pew sheet and write the 1st Sunday of Christmas sermon. We type out the Christmas carols and like the earworms they are, they get stuck there. No! It is still Advent! Back and forth we go in that twilight world which is Advent but nearly Christmas and the shops and radio stations would have us believe it is nearly over, not just beginning.
Cards and invitations come in. Even the most extrovert of extrovertish party animal balk at these invitations. Collects are sought, nice blessings filed and can’t be found again, memories are stirred with faint rememberings of brilliant ideas for Crib services… but just out of reach. Filing cabinets are emptied, and paper litters the floor along with wrapping paper, nativity ducks, enough tealights to seriously worry the Health and Safety Officer, and a crown of thorns. (How the heck did that get there? And where can I put it so I will find it in Holy Week?)
Voile! I forgot the Voile! Where’s the list?
And in the midst of the chaos we dream strange dreams of angels and camels and a determined young girl. And we ponder what life would be like if we were struck down with a mystery illness that required us to take to our beds for a fortnight and be unable to lift a finger. And then we realise that we couldn’t bear to be anywhere this Christmas but here, with our little flock. Then the sinking feeling starts to go, and a bubbling up begins. The baby Jesus will soon be here! Isn’t that glorious?
Hang on a mo… the baby Jesus! Where the heck is the baby Jesus? Is he even on the list?