While cleaning my condo a few days ago, I accidentally vacuumed up baby Jesus from one of the nativity scenes and had to retrieve him from the almighty Dyson. I dusted him off and glued his sweet lil head back in the manger. He isn’t really even supposed to be there yet since it’s still a few weeks until his birthday, but he’s securely back in the trough nonetheless.
Then I spent the weekend working at the hospital, which meant I was the chaplain on duty for the first two nights of Hanukkah. (I’m a bit of an interfaith liturgical nerd so I was pretty excited.) On my way to Menorah distribution, I gave a Cliffs Notes Hanukkah tutorial to a curious security guard who inquired as to why I was carrying 3 electric Menorahs in the elevator. Saturday evening I realized I had forgotten to give Gelt to one of the Jewish families, and on my way I noticed the Muslim prayer rugs were wadded up in the prayer room. While I folded the rugs, I received a text page from a patient’s nurse asking about Catholic masses nearby. Somewhere between folding the prayer rugs and looking at the pager, I spilled some Hanukkah Gelt on the prayer rugs. I cleaned up the Gelt, neatly put the rugs away, and called the nurse back with the rundown of Catholic masses in walking distance.
On Sunday I found myself again explaining faith traditions to curious elevator passengers as we rode 5 floors together while I held Hanukkah Gelt, pink rosaries, an Advent devotional book, and a Diet Coke. And by that point in my week, I felt about as confused as Karen Walker when she said, “Grace, it’s Christmas for Goodness sake! Think about the baby Jesus! Up in that tower, letting his hair hang down, so that the three wise men can climb up and spin the Dreidel and see if there’s six more weeks of winter.”
Sunday evening I went to the chapel to light two candles on the Advent wreath and two candles on the Menorah. As I lit the four flames of faith, I was able to pause, breathe, and take in the light that shines, and has always shined, in the chaos and darkness.
When I left the chapel, I heard the loud giggles of children, which is an especially vital sound in a hospital. They were climbing around in the life-size fire truck cabin that was donated when the new hospital was constructed. I walked over to them, and one of them exclaimed, “The lights WORK! They’re REAL! Look!!!” He then proceeded to turn the lights on. And off. And on. And off. Then his sibling noticed the turn signals, “They really click! For Real!” I watched them for a while, captivated by their contagious enthusiasm and laughter.
Whatever your faith tradition during this potentially convoluted and consumerism driven month, I hope you see the lights of a Menorah, or an Advent wreath, or even a fire truck, and are overcome with the desire to exclaim, “The lights WORK! They’re REAL! Look!!!”