Friday, December 25, 2009

Christmas Joy

Mrs. and Fr. H., photo courtesy of Leo

Christmas is a time high stress and a lot of hard work for everyone - including clergy families.

This year, with Christmas falling on Friday, for us it meant separate services (and different sermons) for:
  • Last Sunday - Advent 4
  • Wednesday Night - Advent 4 Midweek
  • Thursday Afternoon - Christmas Eve (Lessons and Carols)
  • Thursday Night - Christmas Eve (Midnight Mass)
  • Friday Morning - Christmas Day
  • Sunday Morning - Feast of St. John the Apostle
Leo behaved himself very well at all of our services. He is a real trooper. And on top of all the baking and Christmas preparation, Mrs. H. worked like a maniac making a chasuble for our church.

Well, that explains the sore back...

Having made it through five of the six above hurdles, we have been able to take a little breather and relax. It has been a wonderful Christmas cycle in spite of the intense amount of work. The congregation as a whole and many parishioners individually have been most generous and kind to us with their gifts, cards (including their overwhelming generosity to Leo), well-wishes, and goodies. We have also enjoyed family time even amid the hustle and bustle. And of course, preaching the Word of God and administering the Holy Sacrament to the wonderful people the Lord has placed me to serve as their pastor, an honor I neither deserve nor merit - is especially poignant as we ponder anew the meaning of the Word Made Flesh, Immanuel, God With Us.

On Christmas Eve, between the two services, (and Brother Latif will not want to read this next part) we ate dinner at IHOP. I know that some of my parishioners are probably crossing themselves about now, given that IHOP is a (children, cover your ears) national chain. Their menu is strangely bereft of po-boys, jambalaya, fried oysters, seafood platters, gumbo, and red beans and rice. But having said that, even Louisianians sometimes need a pancake fix.

Gingerbread pancakes - get them wile you still can!

And IHOP is much more than pancakes - though you cannot beat their 'cakes. They have huge omelets to die for, waffles, crepes, a good number of meat entrees of every type, and nice desserts. And at least at our local IHOP in Harvey (on Manhattan), the food is always fresh, perfectly cooked, and presented beautifully. The coffee is good, and the service is always outstanding!

Our waitresses are not just efficient, but friendly and fun. They put up with all of Leo's antics (like hearing him explain with gusto how a typical arachnid has eight eyes, an abdomen, and a cephalothorax) and didn't bat an eye when I asked for something not on the menu. They really have a great sense of humor, and watch over us like we are their best friends. Leo and I typically make our way to the maps of the world engraved on glass windows for a "geography quiz." We always have enough food left over to bring home for another meal. The prices are good too. Going to IHOP is just plain fun.

"Show me Madagascar!"

We had a blast unwinding after our two-hour Lessons and Carols service Christmas Eve. Our waitress, Karen, did an outstanding job, as always. Salli was also working the holiday (as many of our other familiar waitresses were). Danielle was away visiting family for Christmas - but she is also an excellent waitress, and deserves a shout-out. I hope the management of IHOP appreciates them. They really do a great job.

Salli and Karen rock! (Photo courtesy of Leo)

We went home to find that someone had broken into our home while we were IHOPping. But it's okay. It was just Santa Claus. Leo must have been a really good boy, having received (among other things) a toy truck, a rubbery spider with visible internal organs, and (causing him to gasp and bounce with joy), a large and anatomically accurate model of a jumping spider. "Lord, now lettest Thou Thy servant depart in peace..."

"Oh... my... gosh...! It's a JUMPING SPIIIIIII-DER!"

Mrs. H. was giddy to receive a pair of brown boots to match her black ones, and a couple of ancient history books. The history is ancient, but the books are actually new. Oh yes, and a waffle iron (was that wrong of me?). I was graced (pun intended) with a mug that you can actually write on with chalk, a kind of blackboard that holds liquid - perfect for chalking up Latin and Greek vocabulary to enjoy over a portion of coffea arabica. Being on my feet all the time, I'm also grateful for the (Lisa, skip this next part...) foot massager that Mrs. H. bought for me! I also have a couple of Bibles on order - since I don't seem to have enough already...

Christmas Day was likewise a great joy.

After the 10:30 am Divine Service, we went next door to Aline's house for a meal (in the words of Arlo Guthrie) that "could not be beat." Aline also had invited the couple across the street, as well as another related couple - all of whom have fairly recently moved to New Orleans and are (like us) a long way from family. We had an absolute blast!

The menu read like that of a fine restaurant: Greek chicken, stuffing, mirliton dressing (often pronounced "mellyton," with a nasal French "n"), turkey, sweet potatoes, as well as homemade pralines, a carrot cake that could win awards, and baked apples. And, of course, CDM coffee and chicory made the old fashioned way. All that was missing was the cigar.

Aline commands the kitchen and keeps us laughing

But even better than the meal (which hardly seems possible) was the company. Aline is quite the hostess, and the two other couples kept us in stitches. We even listened to an antique Elvis Christmas record on vinyl.

Peov spins the Elvis while showing off Aline's retro nutcracker as wife Destiny enjoys the tableau

So, thank you to Aline, to our friends, to our waitresses at IHOP, to everyone at Salem Lutheran Church, to Santa, and of course to the Triune God for making this a joyful Christmas.

Melody and husband Ben having a laugh (one of many)

This is the day the Lord has made...


Peter said...

A wonderful story . . . though I have doubts about the IHOP thing. Merry Christmas!

Rev. Eric J Brown said...

I still don't know how YOU ended up with Grace. If there is a better depiction of God's mercy, I don't know what it is.

Have a blessed Christmastide!

Father Hollywood said...

Dear Peter:

O you of little faith. :-)

Sounds like a reason to come back to NOLA for a fact finding mission.

Father Hollywood said...

Dear Eric:

Verily, verily!

Ewe said...

Sorry to post this so late, but our computer was down. We had a blizzard so we didn't have any services on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day. It was the strangest Christmas to not go to services, just eat and open presents.
What in the world does Grace NEED boots for there?

Father Hollywood said...

Dear Ewe:

The global warming did create a lot of strange Christmases this year.

Miss Grace loves her boots! And they did come in handy today - it was below freezing today! But even without the freezing temps, they look nice.

Mine come in very handy walking to work in torrential rains. What I REALLY need are shrimper boots.

I don;t think Grace will be buying any shrimper boots - especially being white, they are a no-go after Labor Day... :-)