Most of the Time We're Looking Somewhere Else

One Christmas Eve when my children were young, my brother and his wife were visiting us and we had sort of done all the things that have to be done on Christmas Eve and your children are young and we had supper and we put the presents under the tree and we put the lights on. I dug up somewhere a recipe that Charles Dickens handed on about how to make wassail and I'd made it; ghastly tasting stuff. When it was all over and it was just about time to go to bed and everybody was dead tired around midnight or so I suddenly felt, my golly, our neighbor down the hill who had gone off somewhere for a week or so had said "would you mind taking care of my sheep when I'm gone?" I thought there they are, they haven't been fed, we haven't fed them yet, so we stuck on our boots and we went into the night and it was snowing. We walked down the hill and off into the little pen where the sheep cuddled in the wintertime and turned on the 40 watt bulb hanging from the ceiling and took a bail of hay out and snipped the string with my pen knife and started scattering it around. The sheep were sort of bumbling around the way sheep do and all of a sudden, I thought, my God it's Christmas Eve and look where I am. I just happened to think of that. Me, of all people. The world is a manger and most of the time we're looking somewhere else.

  • from a lecture on preaching at Princeton Theological Seminary's Henderson Conference in 1986