“Isn’t there anyone who knows what Christmas is about?” Charlie Brown
Well, it it still Advent but despite all my heartfelt leanings of liturgical calendar correctness I have caught the Christmas spirit early this year. I don’t know why, especially because I can be such a Grinch this time of year.
It began last week when I had to make 8 dozen cookies for our annual “cookie exchange” at the hospital where I serve. We had the exchange on Friday and it was combined with our Christmas Tree (Holiday Tree for those more politically correct than this moderate liberal) lighting.
Let’s face it without Martin Luther we wouldn’t do the Christmas tree thing anyway, the Calvinists that first settled this country were such party-poopers that that they thought the whole concept of celebrating Christmas was sinful. (See my article Christian Grinch’s: How the Puritans nearly stole Christmas http://wp.me/prGqV-1tg ) So I guess if we want to play the whole politically correct thing the Calvinists forefathers and mothers of our current Evangelical Christian defenders of “Christmas” actually had more in common with the current critics of the holiday than its defenders? But I digress…
Martin Luther with his family at Christmas
So in the spirit of Martin Luther, that beer drinking foul mouthed German instigator of the Protestant Reformation, I have gotten into the Christmas spirit. For the first time since I was in Iraq I feel an eager anticipation of the coming of Christmas.
The Puritan’s Idea of a Very Calvin Christmas
Like I said it began last week. First there was my cookie baking adventure The Easy Baking Bachelor of Christmastide which was a success. In fact I plan on repeating it to some extent tonight, gifts for my minions at work and friends at the bar tomorrow. The cookie exchange took place Friday. I brought in the cookies and when I got to work one of the fellow members of the board of directors asked me if I was going to change into my dress blues as I was wearing my khakis. It was at that point that I thought to myself “Oh shit.” I had forgotten that those of us on the board of directors who are on active duty actually dress up when we do this. You see my dress blue uniform was hanging in my apartment, 25 miles away. Since I had to attend one of those good occasions where we were promoting a couple of dozen young sailors I could not leave immediately to change into the uniform.
I was happy to see the Sailors get promoted but I was not happy about having to make the trip home and back. Yes I could have weaseled my way out of the dress blue uniform but as much of a weasel as I can be I hate to look obvious. So when the ceremony ended at 0900 I dashed to my office, grabbed my cover, which is what we in the Navy call a hat and ran out to my car. I made it home in good time and then things started going to hell.
Molly, my little dog Molly decided that she needed to go out and since I was home early she assumed that I had all day to indulge her. It was a power fight, the little Papillon-Dachshund mix decided that she would fart around. Eventually I got her inside and went to get in my uniform, which to my surprise still had the large medals which I had on it for a change of command ceremony I had been participated in, and which I had to switch out for mere ribbons. I hurriedly changed the ribbons, gave Molly her “cookie” (not one of the chocolate chuck cookies but a dog treat) changed into my uniform and dashed to the car.
At that point something happened in me. It was as if I was having a Grinch moment, but in a good way: As the story goes: “And what happened, then? Well, in Whoville they say – that the Grinch’s small heart grew three sizes that day. And then – the true meaning of Christmas came through, and the Grinch found the strength of ten Grinches, plus two!”
It was a damn close run adventure getting back to the base on time. It seemed that if there was a red light that I caught it and to make matters worse, if there was a minnie-van driven by a doddering retiree or soccer mom who decided to do 5 miles an hour under the speed limit in the left hand lane I got behind them. In between praying and cussing and dodging in and out of impossible traffic situations I realized that I really wanted to make it on time. It was as if the Force was with me as I wove in and out of the insidiously poor drivers who could not drive nails and should not be behind the controls of modern automobiles.
Now this was strange because such ceremonial events are usually, no matter what the occasion are painful for me to attend, being that I am mildly introverted and anti-social. It was like when the Grinch’s grew and he had to dash to Whoville to save Christmas. It was almost a conversion experience, a Christmas miracle if you will. I was possessed with the need to make it on time despite the obstacles.
Despite construction zones, slow drivers hogging the fast lane, and traffic lights I was able to get to the hospital parking lot at 1028 with the ceremony scheduled to begin at 1030. I had no time to waste. Our employee parking lots are not convenient to getting into the building fast. We reserve that right for patients and visitors. This is probably a good business and PR practice but not helpful at this particular moment. So I found an empty spot in the outfield got out of my car and started to run. It was like the good old days before O.J. Simpson allegedly killed his wife Nicole, when he ran through airports in a suit for Hertz Rent-A-Car in TV commercials. I was flying. This is the great thing about being in shape and not straining to get into the uniform. I ran up the hill by our ER and down the hill, jumped curbs, ditches, and barriers as I wove between pedestrians and cars in the parking lot. Marines, Sailors and civilians looked at crazy Navy officer dashing through the lot with amazement. Surely they though it must be an emergency, and in a sense it was. I was running out of time and I had to give the invocation.
I made it on time and then the ceremony was delayed for 15 minutes. I breathed a sigh of relief and found that my heart had indeed grown three sizes that day because I was not cussing and swearing and acting like a complete idiot. It was a Christmas miracle. The ceremony went well and the two hours of conversations and chit-chatting that followed was enjoyable despite the uncomfortableness of my patent leather military issue shoes. I breathed a sigh of relief and knew that all was well in my world. When the day was done I went home and hung out with Molly before doing usual grilled chicken salad dinner at the neighborhood bar.
One would think that the story would end there but then one would be wrong. I carried the duty pager over the weekend and at about 0100 Saturday morning it went off. It was a call from the Emergency Room. A man was in cardiac arrest and I was needed. I rolled out of bed, waking up Molly who looked offended and I put on my uniform to head to the hospital. When I got there the patient had died, but I spent time and prayed with his wife, then other members of the family who arrived over the next hour. When all was done I drove back home where I woke up Molly, who by the way does not think kindly to being woken up at 0415.
The rest of the weekend was relatively uneventful. I went to our hospital Christmas party Saturday night which was nice and on Sunday celebrated a Eucharist at home after sleeping late for the Second Sunday of Advent. I was tired but I felt great.
So this morning, despite not sleeping well due to holding the duty pager I got up and prepared for work. I had made one mistake however. I assumed that the North Carolina DOT had made appropriate traffic arrangements for traffic control since the bridge that connects us with the mainland is down to one lane due to the resurfacing of the road on it. I anticipated a 10-15 minute delay at the most, however the contractor did not use flagmen but used a timed traffic signal. The result was a traffic nightmare. It took an hour and a half to cover two miles. However instead of ranting and raving as might be my custom I decided instead of listening to news, political commentary, ESPN or even the 70’s channel to tune in to the Sirius radio station that played Christmas songs. It was great and I didn’t stress out. It took nearly 2 and a half hours to get to work today, normally it is about 35-45 minutes. But in that time I realized that I didn’t need to be a Christmas Grinch after all and that my dash to hospital on Friday was not a mistake.
So tonight, I made more cookies to distribute to my minions and friends tomorrow and watched my favorite television Christmas specials, A Charlie Brown Christmas and The Grinch that Stole Christmas.
I am enjoying the lead up to Christmas for the first time in a long time and it feels good. I do hope that in spite of the Fiscal Cliff and all the problems of the world that maybe more people will have a Grinch conversion moment this year and perhaps like Charlie Brown discover the meaning of Christmas, not only now but all year round…
Christmas time is here
We’ll be drawing near
Oh, that we could always see
Such spirit through the year
Oh, that we could always see
Such spirit through the year…