Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Waiting and the Unexpected

I spent this morning working from home because I was waiting for a delivery. My parents have recently moved from the house they have lived in for 30 years and into a retirement community. They shipped me a bunch of stuff they did not have room for in their new place. So I had to sit at home and wait for the truck which was scheduled to arrive any time between 8 and noon.

While I was waiting, I remembered the Advent of my first year of ordained ministry. It was a long standing tradition for the youth group to sell Christmas Trees as the kick-off for their season of fundraising to go the the Mondo Montreat Youth Conference in the summer.

The just-sign-up-with-us-we'll-make-this-easy-for-you Christmas Tree people stressed that it was absolutely vital to have a group of volunteers ready to meet the Christmas Tree Truck at the appointed delivery time. The drivers of the truck were just that, drivers. They would not remove the trees from the truck, they would not carry the trees to whatever holding area you had arranged. All of that work was up to you and your trusty, dedicated volunteers.

Newly minted and eager to do the right thing, I dutifully recruited a group of youth and parents to meet the truck. A week ahead they said the truck would be there between 4 and 4:30 p.m.on delivery day. The day before they called to reconfirm the time and to remind us that the drivers would not unload the trees and we'd better have a crew ready and waiting. Roger, copy that! No worries, mate!

The next day about five minutes past noon, when not a soul was at the church but me, up drove the Christmas Tree truck.

"You're not supposed to be here for four more hours!" I cried.

The driver shrugged. "I'm just following the delivery route they gave me this morning."

"But my volunteers aren't here! The youth group kids won't be out of school until 3:00--the adults are still at work. There's no one here to unload the trees!"

Again the driver shrugged. "I don't unload. And I gotta get outta here in about half and hour. I won't get my other deliveries done otherwise."

And he climbed back into the cab of the truck and lit a cigarette.

First, I ran back to the office and made about five, quick, panicked phone calls. I got one live person and a bunch of answering machines. (This was before cell phones--or at least before most regular folks had them.)

Then, I went out to the truck and began to unload trees. One tree at a time. We had ordered one hundred. Even then, when I was in my twenties, no one would have looked at me and thought "tree wrangler". But I persevered.

About twenty minutes and twenty trees later, three youth group dads showed up. They had gotten the word and come to the rescue. The driver grumbled and threatened and looked at his watch. We grumbled back and kept going. A few more volunteers eventually showed up and in another half hour, we had the trees unloaded and had sent the still grumpy driver movin' on down the road.

Today's delivery was smooth and uneventful in comparison.

But I think the other experience is closer to the message of Advent.

You think you know what you are waiting for, but you don't.
You think you know what to expect, but it's not that at all.
The world will not help you, but help will arrive if you persevere and keep the faith.


Songbird said...

Yes, you have it right.

Presbyterian Gal said...

That is a wonderful Advent story!

Rev Kim said...

What a beautiful Advent story!

cheesehead said...

This is down right borrow worthy! (But I promise I'll ask first...)

St. Casserole said...

Good message for all of us. Thanks

Anonymous said...

There's an article in the most recent edition of Sojourners on the online segregation of Christians. The author basically calls it the online equivalent of Dr. King's quote, "the most segregated hour of Christian America is eleven o'clock on Sunday morning". I thought you might want add your thoughts by blogging on this issue.