Anglicans Online banner More about the gryphon
Independent On the web since 1994 More than 250,000 readers More than 30,000 links Updated every Sunday

Noted This Week
Sites new to AO

News Centre
News archive

News flash: a summary of the top headlines
Start here
Anglicans believe...
The Prayer Book
The Bible

Read letters to AO
Write to us

Resources A to Z

World Anglicanism
Anglican Communion
In full communion
Not in the Communion

Dioceses and Parishes
Hong Kong
New Zealand
South Africa

Vacancies Centre
List a vacancy
Check openings worldwide

Add a site or link to AO
Add a site to AO
Link to AO

About Anglicans Online
Back issues
Awards and publicity
About our logo

Our search engine

Shepherds, you forgot a few things. Here. A list.Hallo again to all.

We are list-lovers. You may know this already from the exhaustive, for us often exhausting, directories of online church resources we maintain. Lists help to bring order out of what is otherwise usually chaotic information, tohu bohu in situ; they represent visually in a useful hierarchy what we know from research of various kinds. Sometimes we come across a parish that can not be made to fit in our diocesan or state/provincial directories, but most of the time we try to find a way to sort things out.* List-making is one of the things we find helpful and satisfying in our wider lives, too. Accomplishing a task, however mundane, and crossing it off a list is gratifying to the point of real meaningfulness, a little pleasure to feel each day we choose to know it.

We suspect that Advent and Christmastide are seasons of many lists for many of us, even more than times with no connection to the Nativity. There are of course the lists of who is naughty and who is nice, with many names appearing on both rosters. Then there are lists of people who sent Christmas cards last year, to whom we must send Christmas cards this year. (If you haven't gotten yours, we promise they will be postmarked before Christmas is over—that's a good week and a half away still.) There are lists of gifts to make or buy. There are shopping lists of the endless ingredients that go into Christmas breakfast or Christmas dinner. In addition to this, there are the normal to-do lists we make and attack each day.

Whether anticipated with childlike eagerness or as the Most Dreaded Feast, Christmas on the horizon beckons us to get ready quick—I'm almost there. This year we realized afresh that it always takes us by surprise, no matter how well prepared we think we are, no matter how good our many lists seem in charting well-intentioned plans. Four weeks of Advent always precede Christmastide—but where do they go? How does one week run into the next, and to where does dear December fly? When the 24th and 25th (all the Christmas most people permit themselves, alas) are over, what have our lists and busyness brought about? If we're lucky, there is some time between Christmas and Epiphany for some quiet under the night sky or in an empty church, time where Christ can be born in the stillness and silence that mark the reign of the Prince of Peace.

Yet we found ourselves this morning, on the third day of Christmas, St John's Day, with a to-do list that looks not unlike every to-do list we've made for a decade of Sundays:

send mail JBB re menorah laundry
church check TA, ACNS, TLC, TL, CT package, card for MB?
situps followup re Hooker project double-check re UC reservation
lunch? bibliography water Christmas tree
library returns AO letter TMB note
call T Christmas cards to JRH, EM, CW email to ORWH
burn CD for NOS notes to HT, BHR letters to AG, KA, Sr MJ, NB?
thank you card to Fr A book review? Merelava
thank you card to OG CW reply ang_reg
charge iPhone AJP reply email Bibliopole

Whether our personal, internal Christmases are inflected most by overtones of David Sedaris, Charles Dickens, G.F. Handel, Dylan Thomas, St Luke, or Bing Crosby, this 'trivial round, the common task' will always persist in Christmas, too. If we will see it, this is part of the glorious mystery of the Incarnation—that God, in joining us in Bethlehem, has been content to squirm in hay, to make delivery and umbilical blood and nursing holy, to sanctify sweat, and mess, and changing, and tears, and sleep, and the disruption of sleep.

If all of this mixed up ancient story is true—and we believe it is, including the shepherds abiding in the field, the kings from the east, the flight into Egypt, the bad deeds of impious Herod, etc.—then Christ has also hallowed our daily to-do lists with their strange routines and shorthand. As we care for ourselves and those around us through these lists, we need not look forward in an attitude of unending preparation or expectation to an always-receding horizon. Christmas does and will surprise us in its inevitable arrival, maugre our readiness. Emmanuel will always astonish us in his messy coming to be with us, God with us in to-do lists. This is very good news for busy people, and, to be sure, part of the Good News for all people that the holy child of Bethlehem brings anew each year.

See you next week, on the tenth day of Christmas, with ten lords a-leaping, or whatever else is on your list. We're crossing this week's AO letter off of ours just now, and heading off to three French hens.

Our signature
All of us at Anglicans Online

Last updated: 27 December 2009

* Everything else is a (w)rutabaga.

A thin blue line
This web site is independent. It is not official in any way. Our editorial staff is private and unaffiliated. Please contact about information on this page. ©2009 Society of Archbishop Justus
. Please address all spam to