A Strange Quietness, Christmas 1980

I read the following piece by Pastor Danny Niedecken in the 12/9/2010 newsletter of St. Mark’s UMC (Cleburne, TX), and he said I could share it with you.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Reflecting on the season . . .
In reflecting on the coming holiday season, I am most mindful of the bigger reality that many in our church are facing as they approach this Christmas season and it has nothing to do with shopping and buying gifts.
My father died in 1980 and the month of his death was October. I recall vividly, as if yesterday, the events of that 1980 Christmas as our family gathered for the traditional family Christmas dinner and later gift exchange. Something was missing. In preparing to eat, we moved in our customary manner to the dinner table to eat, but there was a strange quietness as each of us moved to be seated around the dinner table only to realize there was an empty place where my father had always sat. On this occasion, as in the past, no one dared sit in my father’s spot. Indeed while not present in bodily form, he was very much there.
In recent days, I have found myself thinking and reflecting about the events of that Christmas.
This is due not because there is any unfinished business on my end, but because I am seeing many individuals in our church family deal with illness and changes within their family. And for some, like I experienced in 1980, this will be the first Christmas without that special person in their lives.
This year as the Christmas season approaches and each of us encounters it with the circumstances of our lives, whether that be in joy, in pain, in grief, or perhaps, even in fear, I want to leave you with a few words of hope. * 
May God’s most “special gift” to you be the hope that sustains you in each step and in each day of your journey. And may God bless you richly in this His season of giving.

Being blessed more than I deserve,

Pastor Danny 

* [I have omitted the poem titled “Hope” by Mary Dunn Jones, which can be viewed here.]

About Ron Goetz

My first wife used to say, "There's nothing so sacred that Ron won't pick it apart." My desire to be a pastor -- that was a temperamental mismatch. She was so patient. If my birth mother had lived somewhere else, maybe I would've become a cold case detective. But I would have had to be J instead of a P, I think. And that mid-life reevaluation, starting adolescence as a GARB fundamentalist and transitioning to a non-theist, that gave me an unusual skill set.
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1 Response to A Strange Quietness, Christmas 1980

  1. Ron Goetz says:

    There are several reasons for wanting to share this with you. First, I was moved by it. That’s actually enough in itself. But there are reasons behind its effectiveness (aside from my being sentimental).

    First, there is a reasonable degree of self-disclosure in Pastor Danny’s story. Parishoners like to know something about their pastors. This helps them feel like they know the person assigned to their congregation. You can see that we’re not talking about a lot of heart-on-your-sleeve navel-gazing here, just a simple story about an emotional moment.

    A good story tell can depend a lot on detail. As it happens, 1980 was the year I moved from South San Francisco to San Diego because of my own dad’s major heart attack a few months earlier.

    You can never tell what will grab the attention of your listeners. But I heard very young that “It’s the stories that people remember.”

    “Because we loved you so much, we were delighted to share with you not only the gospel of God but our lives as well.” (I Thessalonians 2:8)

    Obviously you don’t want to over-do it, and there’s a limit to how much and what kinds of self-disclosure people can handle. But sharing brief, significant episodes from your own life is, if I am not stretching Paul’s statement too much, a demonstration of your love for your people.


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