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THE IDLE AMERICAN
Wednesday, January 5, 2011 • Posted January 5, 2011

Murphy’s Law Reigns…

Show me clergy who’ve seen all Christmas services go smoothly, and I’ll show you folks not yet ankle deep in the ministry ocean. As often as not, troubled waters aren’t even mentioned in the forecast.

Veteran clerics, minds filled with memories of rituals and sacraments gone wrong, smile when colleagues new in the cloth brag about precision-like Christmastime programs pulled off without a bobble.

Veteran clergy remember multiple programs that went awry. Their insistence that much of Murphy’s Law was written during Christmas programs at church is difficult to refute….

* * * * *

Overcrowded schedules, overloaded minds and overwhelming challenges make it tough for clergy to keep sharp focus on "the reason for the season." When the celebration of Jesus’ birthday ends, they are entitled to stretches of solitude in quiet places. Saunas come to mind.

For a time, they should take no calls and remain "textless." They should feel the freedom to whimper if whimpering adds to their comfort, or to laugh in the manner of hyenas if such laughing lowers blood pressure. Soothing background music—string arrangements are suggested—can help in the "unruffling" of whatever became "ruffled" during the frantic season.

Christmas has inspired, of course, great works in art, music and literature. But foibles in presentation of programs and pageants also are the stuff of which humor is honed, poems are penned, and preachers are perplexed….

* * * * *

Children are often at center stage when scripts disintegrate. Their "take" on the season is at variance with adults’. Remember, their understanding of the ritual may be limited indeed.

There could be many chapters written about children’s views of the Lord’s Supper, a ritual as common as candles in most Christmas observances. At a service planned for families with children this year, a four-year-old heard the preacher’s announcement about the Lord’s Supper. The pastor invited congregants to participate in an area adjacent to the sanctuary at program’s end.

Upon the final "amen," the youngster begged for his folks to hurry, fearing they might "run out of food." The dad attempted to explain the symbolism—as well as he could on the run—warning that sacraments would include only a tiny bit of bread and a sip of juice. The child, pushing for higher speed, countered, "But Dad, the man said SUPPER!"…

* * * * *

Some pranks at church have been orchestrated by "PKs"—preachers’ kids. One remembered from my youth went off as planned, and the PK was tanned. The preacher, emphasizing in services leading up to Christmas that silence should prevail as participants partook of bread and cup, stirred the nine-year-old’s creative juices. The youngster’s eyes were drawn to the holes lining the back of each pew, where the tiny sacrament cups were to be placed when emptied.

On Saturday prior to the Lord’s Supper, he asked his dad about dimensions of the tiny communion cups. He learned that they were slightly more than one-half inch wide at the base, flaring to slightly more than an inch at the top. The pew holes, measuring almost 1.5 inches, had rubber rings in each that kept the cups from falling through to the floor and assured soundless placement. Surreptitiously, he removed all of the rubber rings, smiling at the prospect of the tiny containers falling through.

During the service, that’s exactly what happened. Glasses crashed against the floor for the next half-dozen seconds in rapid-fire order, like kernels exploding in a popcorn popper. (Maybe this is the reason the cups are now made of plastic.)

The congregation wondered what happened; the minister didn’t. Strict disciplinary measures—the kind we had back then—were such that the youngster’s thoughts of ever repeating the prank were out of mind—as far as the east is from the west….

* * * * *

Some Christians make sure they attend Christmas and Easter services, even if they attend none in between.

The late H. H. (Bud) Stephens, pastor of rural Bowser Community Church in San Saba County a quarter-century or so ago, noted that for 50 Sundays each year, average attendance was 23, but swelled to around 50 on Christmas and Easter Sundays.

"For those two special services, we had real altar flowers," he smiled….

* * * * *

At another church, ushers were careful to avoid seating CEO’s in pews normally taken by regular attendees.

CEO’s? Yep. Christmas/Easter/Only.

And one of ‘em complained about song selections. "Every time I go, they sing either "Silent Night" or "Up from the Grave He Arose."…

* * * * *

Dr. Newbury is a speaker in the Metroplex. Send inquiries/comments to: newbury@speakerdoc.com. Phone: 817-447-3872. Web site: www.speakerdoc.com

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