O my God, have you heard a single “Nice weather we’re having” today? Not that I’ve thanked You for the winter advisory, either. Maybe … You might explain why we need more snow? I didn’t think so. OMG, is January Your way of teaching Your kids, “Because I said so”?
Have you ever worked the night shift?
Years ago, I waitressed from 11 p.m. until 7 a.m. at a Denny’s Restaurant in Oregon.
I didn’t see angels.
As a nursing home aide, I sometimes drew night shifts around holidays. Ghosts wandered dim hallways, one hunting chickens to fry for threshing crews who had labored 60 years before.
I didn’t see angels.
As a young mother, I frequently drew the night shift. My babies wailed, slimed, puked, and worse.
No angels anywhere. I couldn’t even see my shift’s end.
I should have realized that millions throughout the ages have worked lonesome wee hours, too. Take Joseph, a first-century carpenter. When busy, practical Joseph worked night shifts, angels never appeared.
Not until his fiancée told him she was pregnant — and that God was her Child’s Father.
No amount of coffee could clear her head. Or his.
No cutesy cherub, that other-worldly being was so impressive that Joseph bucked family and culture. He married the girl who generated snickers wherever she went.
“What are you thinking, Joseph?” His friends rolled their eyes.
He wasn’t thinking. He was listening to an angel.
When the baby was born, did the shepherds’ arrival mean as much to Joseph as Mary?
For angels had invaded their night shift, too — a huge choir who lit up the sky like Vegas, singing about God’s peace and goodwill through Baby Jesus.
Their story convinced Joseph that Jesus was the Messiah. The stepfather continued to listen to angels.
Even when one instructed him to take his family to Egypt because a king wanted Jesus dead. Even when, after finally adjusting to their new life, an angel told Joseph to return to Israel.
All during night shift.
I rarely work overnight hours now, but Denny’s servers do. Nurses, doctors, and many others: stock clerks, factory workers and truck drivers.
Those caring for sick children and elderly parents.
Many who battle demons of loneliness and misery throughout the night shift.
Few expect to see angels.
But the Bethlehem angels’ song still echoes, announcing Jesus, God’s Gift who offers peace to everyone — especially those laboring in darkness. Those stuck with tough hours. Those who have drawn life’s short straws.
Our Extraordinary Ordinary: When the angels show up, will we listen?
Then, in December, I stumble through Walmart’s doors at 10:30 p.m. to escape lines. I won’t recall how I got there or that I parked my car at Lowe’s. But I’ll have plenty of time to search for it.
Many Americans, like me, despise standing in line — strange, as we spend our lives queuing up. During preschool years, we line up to bawl on Santa Claus’s lap. As elementary children, we form lines to go outside and inside. We broaden our horizons as adults, waiting in wedding reception and funeral home lines, queues at hotel desks and ballparks.
Even at church, we fear the potluck will run out of KFC before we reach the front. And will the sins of those at the head of confession lines rank higher than ours?
At best, we grit and bear it. At worst, we yak on phones.
Interestingly, people who declare there is no right or wrong morph into Moses when someone crosses a certain line: Thou Shalt Not Cut In. Businessmen, Harley riders and little old ladies all want to stone the criminal with Old Testament zeal.
Yet neither God nor OSHA has specified that we stand in lines. Why do this? Especially since we should be first. Always.
Part of the answer lies in our culture. Americans stand in line for the same reason we drive on the right, not the left; eat Kellogg’s Raisin Bran®, not blood pudding, for breakfast; and wear clothing in public — most of the time. It’s what we do.
But I like to think there are better reasons.
Bottom line, standing in line means we put others first.
Years ago, my husband and I entered a McDonald’s in Madrid, Spain. No lines formed at counters. Instead, customers rammed each other like football linemen. Hubby and I waited in vain for game’s end. Eventually, our hungry stomachs won. Readying elbows, we dove into the pack.
If only my elementary principal, Mrs. Talley, had arrived to tame us. If the ghost of my childhood Sunday school teacher, Mrs. Mamie Skeet — wearing her usual weird hat — had admonished us with Jesus’ Golden Rule, we might not have sold slivers of our souls for Big Macs.
Now I appreciate more than ever you who keep your elbows to yourself and wait patiently in line. And this December, if we allow others to go first, we will light up Christmas lines like the natal Star.
Mrs. Talley and Mrs. Skeet would be proud of us.
Your Extraordinary Ordinary: What will you do while waiting in line this Christmas?
O my God, thank You for Thanksgiving! Feasting, fussing, playing and praying, our four generations celebrated Thanksgiving with everything in us. Today, however, I will make lunch for two instead of 18. I walk without laming myself on Legos. Quiet reigns again in our empty nest …
OMG, how I miss that marvelous mess!