Headlines from First Thoughts

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Saturday, December 24-- One Less Trip

I promise to do things differently this Christmas Eve. Flashback to this same time last year. Kelly and I were safely nestled in a Bed and Breakfast in Charlotte. Along with her family, we were attending a wedding of a friend. I officiated the small ceremony. If it had not been a family friend, I would have said "no." After all, it was Christmas Eve. They accomodated my schedule, however. They knew that I needed to be back by 5:00 p.m. for the Christmas Eve service, and I booked a flight immediately following the ceremony to get me from Charlotte to Knoxville in time for the wedding.

The flight, however, took place in a car. When I arrived at the airport, I discovered United Airlines had canceled the flight (this was a time when they apparently did not need the business). They also did not know how to get in touch with customers. I had not received the email they sent, but none of that mattered at 1:00 p.m. on Christmas Eve. I had a service to preach before the clock struck 5.

Because no other flights were leaving Charlotte until 5:30, I flew down to the Hertz desk, rented a car; and attempted to avoid every speed trap between there and Knoxville. I was befuddled, I missed my exit out of Charlotte and drove through Spartanburg, South Carolina, en route to Knoxville. I arrived at 4:45 p.m.

I threw on my robe and went out to await the service. An usher greeted me. "Dr. Shiell, the city bus service (KAT) is about to tow all the cars parked in front of the church." (This, too, can only happen on Christmas Eve.) I ran to the front of the church with the bells of 5 o'clock tolling. KAT was staging buses in front of our church, and the attendant was upset that cars were parked where buses were attempting to stop. It was Saturday; I'm sure KAT figured no one would be at church on Christmas Eve; and the travelers assumed no one would need their spaces they normally used on Sunday when KAT was not staging buses.

With all the authority of John the Baptist I could muster, I told him that there would be no cars towed on Christmas Eve. I promptly returned to the sanctuary (in the spirit of baby Jesus, of course) and led the service.

Mary and Joseph had the flight to Egypt, but I had the flight from Charlotte. Joy to the world.

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