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Holy Inefficiency

Christmas Eve, 11 pm. It was the first time since we've had children that my husband and I attended "midnight mass," and I had forgotten how long it took. At home, we attend a non-denominational church, but we had decided to go for the "smells and bells" of the Episcopal liturgy that night. It was 11:45. My eyes were drooping, as a woman sang a beautiful but long rendition of some line in Latin, over and over and over again. And we still had to take communion.

A week later, we were in New Orleans, visiting Peter's grandfather. He is old. Pale. His hulking frame somehow looks frail as his shoulders begin to curve inwards. He smiled when we entered, a smile that was sweet and somewhat bewildered. Happy to see us. Wondering who we were, these energetic young people who visit once a year. Penny and William scrambled across his lap. We kept up a running banter, although I suspect he would have been equally happy to sit and watch these young lives tumbling through his living room.

As we sat in the pews on Christmas Eve, still listening to the interminable aria, I almost whispered to Peter, "Should we go home? We could slip out at the end of communion..." I was forming the words in my mind when he leaned over to me and said, "I love that it is so inefficient. There's nothing in this that caters to us. We just have to sit, and be still, and wait."

Oh. Yes. Right. Like the shepherds, lying in a field, waiting for morning. Like Mary and Joseph, waiting for this child to be born. Like my husband's grandfather, waiting for the gift of a visitor, someone who can take a few moments out of her precious schedule and offer it to him.

It's a new year now, and according to the Church calendar, Christmas is almost over. It ends with Epiphany, tomorrow, 12 days after Jesus' birth. I pray that it might be a year of holy inefficiency, God with us.

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