Reflections on an Ordinary Sunday

Thanksgiving break was essentially over, the last piece of pumpkin pie halved, Grandma properly hugged, and the drive back to regular life completed uneventfully -- although somewhat brightened by the magic of Bluetooth and the Pentatonix, my first sounds of Christmas. Morning broke on Sunday with the usual pre-dawn stroll, and a hint of anticipation. I had been so consumed with schoolwork and my work, that I had lost track of dates and awoke thinking that Advent was upon us, one of my favorite seasons in the life of believers. I strolled happily into the outreach where I gather each Sunday for reminders and encouragement, then stopped short. What were these fall decorations doing dangling from the ceiling, and where were the tree and advent wreath?Earlier in the year, I had brought a lesson about “ordinary time” in the church calendar – the times between Epiphany and Lent and then between Pentecost and Advent. It’s the bulk of the church’s life, and wonderful things can happen even in ordinary time. But today, I didn’t want to try to make something out of an ordinary Sunday. I wanted – no, I needed ¬-- sparkle. But there was not even a glint of the glitter of Christmas. And then it hit me … Christmas Eve is on a Sunday, so Advent, which sometimes follows Thanksgiving, is not on its heels this year. I know Thanksgiving isn’t part of the church’s seasons, and has even faced criticism as a national holiday (and rightly so), but I like the natural, maybe even prescriptive, flow from thankful heart to anticipatory heart; one ready to ponder and await the arrival of the Christ child. But this was an ordinary Sunday. No carols to be sung, no candle to be lit, no twinkling lights, not one bit of sparkle. And I was sulking in the newly revealed ordinariness of the morning. The service began as usual – a morning’s welcome, an old hymn sung with various degrees of familiarity and gusto. Then, the next hymn began. Someone was singing with an unrivaled degree of gusto mixed with a much lesser degree of timing. “Amazing grace, how sweet the sound,” he belted out loudly, but haltingly, and a step or two behind the less jubilant crowd. I craned my stiff neck to identify the pseudo-soloist who was hijacking the song service. It was Sam. Sam is a member of our community who has some challenges (like all of us!), except for these: a terrific sense of humor, a knack for kindness and a great big, grateful heart, which makes me rethink the use of “challenges.” I willed the pianist and song leader to abandon their practiced pace and fall in step with the plodding voice of Sam, as tears welled up in my eyes. Miraculously, after a bit of a tune-style tug of war, we were singing as one, although Sam continued to outshine us all. Making room in our midst for Sam’s voice, regardless of its timing, must precede any preparation for welcoming the Christ child among us. Grace had fallen on me in an amazing way on the last of the ordinary Sundays. “I once was lost, but now I’m found; was blind, but now I see.”