In 2011, I introduced a little “reader’s theater” satire and inspiration for the Advent season in the eleven:eleven celebration. Bob and Evelyn, my fictitious, small town couple (inspired by Jim and Barb on the Prairie Home Companion show), brought their ironic perspective to the everyday woes and aspirations of a retired couple with adult children during the holiday season.
This year, instead of bringing them to our worship service, I’ve decided to bring them to you, for the next three weeks, in hopes they provide you a little humor and perspective to the deeper possibilities for Advent reflection and Christmas joy. This week — Bob is a bit of the Grinch, but maybe just open enough to receive some joy.
Evelyn: These retirement days have been wonderful for Bob and me, especially this holiday season. We sold our house to pay off our kids’ college debts and had to move to a tiny garage apartment. There’s no room for the kids to move back in now, and having so much less stuff and space does make life a lot simpler. I thought Bob was pretty happy. But then this past week has been tiring. Earlier in the week, Bob said he wanted “A Nightmare Before Christmas.” Well, I didn’t know that was an animated movie by Tim Burton. I heard him say he wanted to have a nightmare before Christmas. So I rented a movie called “Paranormal Activity 4,” and then he couldn’t sleep for three nights!
Bob: Why would I want to have a nightmare before Christmas, Evelyn?
Evelyn: Well, Bob, I wasn’t sure. But I’ve learned not to question the way you think —I thought maybe this was some sort of catharsis you were seeking — a kind of emotional purge before Christmas.
Bob: Evelyn, that’s what the Christmas Letter is for.
Evelyn: Noooo, Bob. The Christmas Letter is our chance to share with our friends the good things that we’ve been blessed with over the year.
Bob: Not this year, Evelyn.
Evelyn: What do you mean? Haven’t you already written it, Bob?
Bob: I’m writing it now — and this year I’ve decided to tell the truth. No more embellishments. No more lies. Every year, all of us just try to one-up each other. Well, not this year. I’m starting a new trend. I’m “one-downing.”
Evelyn: You’re what? Christmas letters aren’t supposed to be the truth — at least not the whole truth. That’d just make everyone sad.
Bob: No, it will make them pity us and feel better about themselves! It’ll be my Christmas gift to our friends. They’ll say, “See, we’re not so bad off after all – compared to Bob and Evelyn!” It’s the Christian thing to do, Evelyn.
Evelyn: What are you going to say?
Bob: Well, I’ll start with our kids’ putting us in debt, so we had to sell everything and get this tiny apartment — and how our cat started using the bathtub, instead of her litter box, and how much easier that makes the clean up.
Evelyn: Bob, it’s not easier — it makes our bathtub back up!
Bob: I’ll tell them that, too. And I’ll tell everyone about this past Spring when you went on a lottery binge and decided to up your chances of winning by buying tickets all over the state. So we got to see places we’d never heard of whose names also seemed more like a cover up than the truth. Like Smiley, Texas, where I’d asked that man at the gas station to smile for a picture under the town sign, and then he threw his wrench at us. Or Friendship, where nothing was open that day — and it was Monday! Or remember Big Lake? There wasn’t any water within 200 miles! And don’t get me started on Ding Dong or Muleshoe! The only town that seemed truer to its name was Uncertain, Texas; and that was because we never really knew if we got there!
Evelyn: Bob, don’t write about that! That trip was a two-week mistake that cost more than $2,000, not to mention me losing the $550 on lotto tickets!
Bob: I’ll tell about that, too!! It just makes my gift all the better — more bad news for Bob and Evelyn!
Evelyn: Bob, just stop! I think maybe we need to go for a walk, right now, before you write anything else. A little walk in the fresh, wintry air might do you some good. Take time to see all the pretty lights, and the trees and enjoy God’s creation — maybe smile at some folks. I bet they’ll smile back. We can remember how, in the midst of all of life’s ups and downs, God is with us — we’re still here and still smiling, still full of wonder — and still learning how to receive a life of love and beauty and grace.
Bob: That reminds me, Evelyn — I forgot about our grumpy neighbor, Grace.
Evelyn: Okay, Bob, we’re walking…
I hope to see you this Sunday, as we think about the Grinch and the fine art of receiving.
Also, don’t forget to check out all the info on our annual Winter Concert, Dec. 20, featuring Peter Mayer and Elizabeth Wills! It’s always a fun and inspiring evening. Click here for all the info.