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On Tuesday morning early I awoke to a disturbing sound. It was the piercing screams of my wife Carol. In a 6 a.m. haze I stumbled through the stairs and found Carol huddled in the fetal position on the kitchen floor. With every perceptible minor move Carol made her body quaked in pain and helping her into a chair was the most excruciating pain that I had ever seen her endure (even during the birth of Calla). Speaking of Calla she had awoken because of the screaming and was quite frightened. I soothed her and sent her to another part of the house. Calling 911 I realized that I had never dialed those numbers before for my own family. By the time the paramedics arrived I found myself soothing a frightened daughter, whispering encouragements to my wife, trying to quiet a barking dog and answering questions of the paramedics.
As the morphine from the paramedics began to kick in and she was able to put her arm in a sling it was obvious that this was going to be a long day for her, but that everything would be fine. By the time she was in the ER there were IV’s, x-rays, more pain medications and then a lot of sleep. As I sat for hours in the ER waiting for results and doctors and then slings I realized that I was given an opportunity to reflect upon being present for those in my midst who are in need.
During my time here at the Palisades Community Church I have had the privilege to meet with people in various stages of emergency and personal crisis. This is an essential part of the pastor’s job. I have been there after the stroke, called during heart palpitations, spoken to during the depth of despair, absorbing other’s misdirected anger, planning a loved ones funeral, accompanying someone to say goodbye to a recently deceased loved one, holding hands with someone who only has hours to live, hugging someone leaving their home of 60 years and talking with families deciding on whether to resuscitate a father. Being in the hospital on the other side gave me a reminder of the chaos, fear and anxiety that these situations bring. They also reminded me of the Biblical admonition that followers of Christ laugh with those who laugh and weep with those who weep.
As I noticed the beginning of Christmas decorations at the hospital and in public spaces during the day I realized that the drama of life does not stop for any holiday. It was in chaos and emergency that Mary and Joseph were in over 2,000 years ago in that cave with dirty animals, about to deliver their first child Jesus. Many will enjoy the holiday programs, the shopping, the opening of gifts, the deep relationships of family and friends this holiday season. Yet, let us remember that this holiday story was also played out in the midst of personal drama, fear and hope. If this is how Jesus came into the world can we expect anything less for our own lives?
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