An Inconvenient Season—and a Season Honoring Inconvenience
The last six weeks in the life of Los Ranchos have been inconvenient.
Our office shares basement space with a preschool. A toilet overflowed in the preschool for several hours in October. The flood spread through their classrooms, half of our common hallway, and the Presbytery’s conference room. By the time the carpet and walls dried, mold had set in. Extensive clean-up was necessary.
Not surprisingly, the clean-up found asbestos tiles under the moldy carpet. Not only would our hallway and conference room carpet need to be torn out, but also the underlying tiles.
So, as many of you already know, our staff has worked remotely since early November. We have depended on local congregations to host our committee meetings. We have relied on the Internet to communicate with each other. And we have waited with grateful eagerness for updates from Kim and Leah at Anaheim First.
But mostly, we have learned that working from a “virtual office” is not nearly as elegant as the prophets of technocracy would have us believe.
In the midst of the repairs, Elvira’s retirement has loomed. She begins vacation and holidays on December 22, and officially is off the books on January 2.
It won’t matter whether Elvira retires now or five years from now. Her retirement will not be convenient. She has developed a level of institutional knowledge over course of her thirty-plus years that helps us in ways we don’t realize. Her expert advice to congregations and ministry candidates saves me untold hours of work. If not for how glad I am that she can enjoy a healthy retirement and abandon her daily two-hour commute, I would grumble about losing her.
Even finding her replacement has been disruptive. Conducting the search without common office space has been a challenge. Arranging interviews will be even trickier. I only hope that our best candidates don’t balk at the hallway mess the first time they see it.
A Fussy Cell Phone
During all this upheaval, I foolishly chose to replace my cell phone. The old one was charging unreliably. I figured a quick upgrade would make life a bit easier. I was wrong.
It turns out that the phone I chose did not work on my carrier within a block of my house. It worked fine everywhere else. Other phones worked fine in my house. But the combination of phone, location, and cell network made phone calls impossible from home—just when the office was closed for repairs.
Fifteen hours of tech support later, I now have an arrangement that works—but I really would have preferred spending those fifteen hours doing anything else.
An Inconvenienced Couple
As I bellyached about these headaches, I was reminded of all the displacement that characterizes this season’s origins.
It could not have been convenient for anyone to travel eighty or more miles by foot from Nazareth to Bethlehem in order to accommodate a foreign government’s demands. It would have been even less convenient for Mary, who was “great with child” (Luke 2:5). And notice—the story never mentions a pack animal. What if Mary had to walk?
It could not have been convenient for Mary and Joseph to bed down with animals (Luke 2:7). Yes, they probably didn’t sleep in a barn as we would imagine one. Rather, they would have shared the living room with the family livestock.
But staying on the floor in a relative’s living room, because the guest room was already occupied? Staying there indefinitely, until the census takers said you could leave? And doing so up and through the birth of your baby? My privileged whining embarrasses me.
A Holy Inconvenience
And then one last inconvenience comes to mind. And perhaps this last one helps most to put our lives in perspective.
For just as staying in the living room could not have been easy for Mary and Joseph, neither could it have been convenient to host an in-law in one’s living room, especially one who would eventually give birth there, until the census takers had finished their work.
Church doctrine would ultimately recognize that Mary made room in her body for the person of Jesus and would give her the title theotokos, “God-bearer.” But, Mary’s accommodating in-laws made room, too. And in doing so, the unmentioned homeowner welcomed the Anointed One unawares.
Maybe inconveniences aren’t just irritants. Maybe they are holy moments, waiting for us to welcome Emmanuel into our lives once again.
Somewhere along the Way—