Last night I took from the shelves a book that I had been given in 1978. The man I am living with these days searched out his copy of the same book.
At the midpoint of Advent, I had the occasion for the first time to pray with him in our living room the Evening Prayer for Gaudete Sunday.
Richard and I had spent our Sunday afternoon in a movie theatre. Arriving early for a screening of The Imitation Game, we had found seats in a still empty theatre and eaten an easy lunch that we picked up on our way there. Each of us had brought an expectation of finding entertainment in the film about Alan Turing, British World War II code breaker. I am sure we did not expect to emerge from the theatre as moved as we finally were by the story of a brilliant man whose same-sex attractions had forced on him great loneliness and – eventually – criminal charges.
Both Richard and I at one time in our twenties had studied for the priesthood. Exiting formation programs well shy of ordination, we had each of us devoted ourselves in later years to teaching religion. We each of us were cautious about who in our separate schools would know the full story of our hearts.
Briefly last night I stepped back into the words of an old school of prayer. It was not reverie I encountered but words that I had read before. It was not happenstance that I had read them before. When a tradition has trained you in a rotation of scripture, you are not surprised to meet yourself again in this way. December – Advent – a familiar set of psalms and canticles and antiphons awaits you each year if you are prone to pick up a breviary.
I do not mean to suggest the kind of debate that occasionally erupts when denominations or traditions meet. Or do not meet.
I do not mean angels in disguise descending into the midst of troubled families in Christmas movies and television specials.
Christmas is theological because it expects no surprise at the prospect of a God who takes serious who we all might possibly be.
Something like Christmas gets Richard and me thinking afresh about our true selves.