It is a kind of strange thing to live right next door to my work. In some ways it is just wonderful. No long drive to work. Easy access when I forget something at home – just a walk across the driveway and there I am. In a pinch I can run between buildings in my slippers and get something from the church mailbox and bring it back home. Yes, my “work” is being the pastor of Trinity Church and Dorrie and I now live in the parsonage, right next door.
The strange part is looking out the window when I am washing dishes and seeing a church! And not just a church but my church. It reminds me of being a child and walking to school and church (because they were connected) and seeing the rectory where the priest lived with some woman and wondering what went on there? And right next door to the school was the convent, and again, wondering, what really goes on there when the nuns leave school and go home. And now, here we are, in one of those places that some people wonder about and it turns out that it is totally ordinary, except of course, that my home study window looks out on the stable. No, not a horse stable, but the manger kind of stable. The manger kind of stable where for the last month Mary and Joseph and the animals and angel, and then finally Jesus and the Magi were all sleeping at night and watching us walk by them every day.
A few days ago we celebrated the Epiphany during our Sunday service. The Epiphany is the day when we remember the Magi crossing the desert (and it might have taken them not 12 days but 1.5 years to get there) and finally arriving, offering their gifts, bowing down to the baby and skedaddling back across the desert to Persia before King Herod could find them and drag the details about that baby right out of them. During the service we also remembered that in the days to follow (and that is now, if you count in liturgical time) Papa Joseph had one of those scary dreams where he heard God tell him to grab his wife and child and run to Egypt to get away from that same violent King. And they did. They ran. And they could not stop what happened next, which is that Herod went ballistic (literally) and killed all the children in the region who were 2-years-old or younger. The Christ Child was born, and still, violence erupted. Just like now.
So here I am. Standing at my window, and looking out and the stable and finding it empty. It is empty because we followed the story line and took everyone away. First the Magi, and then the family, and finally the animals, and even the straw bedding. We left the star and the angel but the stable is empty and I miss them. I miss the beautiful faces of all the figures. I miss the family especially, the way you miss a family if they move away from the neighborhood. I miss them the way I miss my parents, who when we were young, helped all of us 8 kids, walk those Magi down the stairs and across the room to finally meet the baby on Epiphany Sunday. I miss the baby and I also miss the children, both the children in Bethlehem, and the children in Newtown Connecticut, and all the children of the world who are no longer in the arms of a loving world.
When the stable was first erected this year I thought it was sweet. And then I thought it was lovely and moving. But now that it stands there empty I think it is powerful. Missing them stirs my heart. I wonder tonight if really they are not so far away after all. Have they moved into the parsonage? Have they moved into my very being? I miss them, yet somehow, they seem to be close by. My parents are in my heart. The Magi are traveling in my own life. The Holy Family are in my house. Missing them has brought them home.
Literally home. Because in fact they are now packed up and put away, in a room out back with a bunch of other church things that I have not had the courage to face because really, if Christmas is in the back room of my house, what about Easter? This is what it is like, living next door to work.