Iron Mountain ski jump

Iron Mountain ski jump

Wednesday, December 13, 2017


CHRIST IN WINTER: Reflections on Faith from a place of winter For the Years of Winter…

[A repeat from 12-12-12]
It was the Sunday before Christmas. We’d had two good morning worship services. I was tired. I was sitting at the table in the kitchen, sans shoes and tie, gratefully full of lunch, sipping a second cup of tea, when the phone on the wall beside me blared more forcefully than necessary. I picked it up. A rather thin, small voice…

“Rev. McFarland, aren’t you coming to our wedding?”

A minister should not schedule anything on a Sunday afternoon. A Sunday morning is intense. It empties your brain out. By the time it is over, there is no room to remember anything that is coming up.

In over 50 years in ministry, I forgot two events. The first time I was supposed to be part of a panel discussion for an evening program at a church on the other side of town. It’s not too bad if one member of a panel doesn’t show. It’s definitely not good if the only minister doesn’t show up for a wedding.

It’s even worse if the bride is a scared teen-ager whose family threw her out when she told them she was pregnant.

I hadn’t known her or her boyfriend, but they came to me when her pastor refused to marry them. “People say, when there’s no place else to go, they come to you,” they told me. Now the pastor of last resort had forgotten about them, too. You can’t get much more forgotten than that.

I set a record for retrieving shoes and tying tie, and I flew out the back door. Helen was right behind me. Mary Beth and Katie, who were teenagers, were right behind her. Fortunately, we lived next door to the church building, and there was already a path shoveled through the big snow drift that always swept in and up between the back doors of the parsonage and the church building.

They were in the kitchen, the bulging bride, and her skinny husband-to-be, and the nervous teen couple they had brought along as witnesses. This was well before cell phones. When I had not showed up at 1:00 o’clock, they had wandered through the building and found the phone in the kitchen.

I led them back to the sanctuary. Oops. I had forgotten something else. After the morning services, we had prepared for the Christmas program that evening. The pulpit and lectern and altar table had been removed, turning the chancel into a large Akron-plan wrap-around stage. The chancel was bare.

But we were decorated for Christmas. Wreaths and candles and red ribbons, and a crèche set. They took their vows standing in front of the manger, part of a scene that said, “Love came down at Christmas.”

Every Christmas, the wedding I forgot is the one that I remember.


The “place of winter” mentioned in the title line is Iron Mountain, in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, where life is defined by winter even in the summer!

I tweet, occasionally, as yooper1721.

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