Christmas Plague of 2014

The sound of coughing began to fill our house on the Saturday before Christmas. My son had caught one of plethora of viruses that was passed from child to child at school the week before. When I returned from church Sunday afternoon, he was sitting at the kitchen counter in his bathrobe, hunched over a glass of fruit juice.  

“How are you feeling, little guy?” I asked. 

“I’m sick,” he replied, stating the obvious. 

There was no question about it. He truly was sick. If it had been a Sunday night before a school day, I might have examined him more closely. Those who have school-aged children are no doubt familiar with the end-of-the-weekend virus that strikes Sunday evening, and is miraculously healed by noon on Monday. It is a virus that is almost never accompanied by a fever, so the rule is, only when a fever is present is it cause for sleeping in Monday morning.   

“At least you have good timing,” I said. “You will not miss any school.” 

“Be quiet,” he responded, still staring into his juice. 

Normally I would say something about speaking to me more respectfully, but I deserved that one. Then, another concern hit me. The plague has come to my house right before Christmas. Christmas is the second busiest week of the year for clergy. Clergy cannot afford to get sick at Christmas. People fill the church waiting to hear “glad tiding of great joy,” not a three-minute sermon croaked into a microphone. 

There might be some people who would appreciate the three-minute sermon. Many of them are under the age of 12. In any case, no one really wants to receive communion from the priest who just delivered that barely audible three-minute sermon. I briefly considered moving to the garage until after the Christmas Eve services. 

By Christmas morning, the boy was feeling much better. One of the blessings of youth that I miss most is the way they bounce back. A virus that would confuse my immune system for two weeks is decoded in a few days by a younger, more agile system. I have often wondered if this is related to their ability to figure out any electronic device without the aid of a manual. 

Unfortunately, my daughter had started coughing. 

“Are you sick?” my wife asked. 

“Yeah, this stinks. It’s Christmas break,” she said, then added, “I probably should not have been stealing sips of juice out of his glass.” 

I showed remarkable restraint, and avoided the obvious comments. It is only slightly more dangerous to mess with a mother bear than to make a snarky comment to a teenage girl who is not feeling well.  

In spite of this plague, we enjoyed our celebration of Christmas. When we celebrate something as miraculous and enormous as Christmas, it is a good reminder that viruses and plagues are temporary. We are celebrating those glad tidings of great joy that are eternal.  

RJ Johnson

I have been a priest for 16 years.  I spent the first four years in Minnesota and Wisconsin, six years on the Eastern Shore of Virginia, before becoming the pastor at Advent Episcopal Church in Westlake in 2010.  If anyone would find it interesting I have a son and daughter, which I refer to as a matched set, a wife, a dog, and a cat.

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Volume 7, Issue 1, Posted 9:50 AM, 01.06.2015