Archive for December, 2013

December 25, 2013

First Snow

I was crouched down to talk to four year old Ellie as her dad talked to Nick. She commented on how crowded it was and I agreed. I glanced out the plate glass wall to my right and barely saw the white dust swirling as though caught in sunbeam.

“Look Ellie! It’s snowing”

“Yes,” she replied, as though it were perpetually snowing in the world she inhabited. “I like to make snow angels.”

A boy ran past us. “That’s one of my friends. I’m going to go play.” With that, she followed him out of the adult forest and I stood to rejoin the grown up conversation about work and books and entrepreneurism. Eventually, the second service began and I wandered to my usual section.

I sit in the back left side of the sanctuary; I’ve always been a back row student and a back row congregant.  The upper half of the wall to my left is windows. Looking out through the bare tree tops, I’m often distracted by the freight trains lumbering past the church property, their groans and bellows surprisingly mellowed by the refurbished factory walls.

This building is a miracle. The story is older than me; I barely know the details of the five years I was present for. But a migrant church body, like Israel fording the Jordan from the wilderness, crossed the city of Wheaton to their promised land. And today, I stare out the window as snowdust turns to flurries to snowflakes, accumulating on window ledges and tree branches, car roofs and train tops.

The white quiet world beyond the glass is contrasted against the deep purples of the Advent service and the hymnody selected. The most liturgical congregants conscript their clothing to match the altar dressings. The least liturgical wear Christmas reds. I, like others who forget to dress accordingly, am a smattering of greens, browns, blues, and greys. But purple, ranging from pale lavenders to weighty violets, owns the sanctuary, dressing it as a throne room.

Our voices rise in the E minor verses of O Come, O Come Emmanuel; lacking an organ, the music team has taken an ascetic approach to the song, stripping the instrumentation to a minimum. The minor key is beautiful, but mournful, at odds with its imperative to rejoice in the promise of redemption, of resurrection, of a messiah. Some have abandoned that hope, finding it propaganda, a cruel joke, or the mass’ opiate. Others are ignorant of the mourning, idealizing humanity’s progress and potential, finding the hope unnecessary. But some are starting to recognize their own brokenness in a dying world; a brokenness that might be made right. They sing a mournful song to the only one who can save anyone or anything, gasping out words in desperation, unable to abide outside of the song’s hope. This is what I ponder as the homily explores the lectionary, what I pray as the parishioners kneel, and what I ingest at the Eucharist.

As I pull into my neighborhood, there is just enough snow for me to start fishtailing. When you’re good enough at driving in the snow, this is fun. If you’re not good, I’m sure this is terrifying.

I pull into the garage, disappointed my tires have crushed unshovelable stripes into the snow. I quickly peel of my oxford and jean for fleece pants and a thick, lined hoodie. The DCs are replaced by boots. I am a hodgepodge of warm, ill-fitting clothing. I return to the garage, grab the shovel, and begin.

There is enough snow in the driveway for me to shovel, but the snowfall is deceptive. It’s light enough to not be noticed, but heavy enough to completely dust everything I’ve shoveled within fifteen minutes. But a little bit of work now will make any work later just a bit easier. Plus, it’s been weeks since I’ve worked out, every little bit helps right now.

If today was truly idyllic, it would be Saturday and I would have nothing planned, no looming responsibly, no desire for growth. I would rise from a restful sleep, sit on a couch looking out over my yard, and a mug of rich hot chocolate with mini marshmallows would make its way into my hands. The ascending sun would cause the fallen snow to glow in rich colors as though it were the sun’s mirror.

But today is not a vacuum sealed Saturday. It is Sunday afternoon, a Sunday afternoon with much to do. As I drive through the snow filled streets, I am reminded of how difficult it can be to drive in snow and how frustrating it is to drive behind people who are terrified to accelerate. And then I pass an accident and remember I’d rather be stuck behind Granny Georgia Tuscaloosa than be stuck in the traffic jam caused by an accident. I’d also rather be stuck in traffic than caught in an accident.  The snow continues to fall as I meander from task to task and town to town where the plows are infrequent; the drivers have a long night of snowy streets ahead of them. When I return home, there will be significantly more snow in the driveway. I’ll probably just park on the street so the snow remains undisturbed until I attack it with a shovel.

Winter has arrived in Chicagoland. There will be snow drifts at the ends of the driveway for the next three months. Our gas bill will rise to heat our house; the electric bill will rise as we light the early darkness. I will occasionally drink hot chocolate when I force the idyllic moment for which I yearn. If it snows during the day I will skip the gym to shovel. I’ll have to remember to lift my windshield wipers every morning at work. Ellie probably struggle to lift the toe of her boots above the top of the snow, but she will make snow angels.