Allahu Akbar: A Christmas to Remember

Last week (as you undoubtedly know), a series of terrorist type attacks occurred (mostly in and around Europe). In one well-publicized case, a smartly-dressed gunman shot and killed the Russian Ambassador to Turkey. As you may have seen, the entire thing was caught on video, so it was the easiest thing in the world to identify as terrorism (something we seem to be quite reluctant to do these days).

I won’t go into the details (which have been pounded into our skulls by relentless and never-ending newscasts) except to say the ambassador was shot in the back and the assassin shouted, “Allahu Akbar” during the attack. This now familiar phrase, which seems to accompany many acts of inhumanity and cowardice these days, is a dead giveaway to the motives of any such attacker. They are basically blaming their god for their vile actions.

“This Tactic is Nothing New”

This tactic is nothing new, as I’m sure you’re well aware. Adam and Eve got us off to a good start down that pathway. It’s a very familiar theme in life—blaming someone else. People love to blame a god, the devil, their mother, or the fact that they were victims of some evil conspiracy. The list is not limited to these things, of course, but you get the idea.

The interesting thing about these recent attacks is their timing. They seem to be perpetrated by folks who look at Christmas season happenings as prime windows of opportunity. After all, who celebrates Christmas? Infidels do. “Infidels must die, and we must help them” seems to be the watchword around this insanity.

The fact that so much crazy stuff seems to be swirling around what was often termed the “Season of Peace” is mindboggling. The juxtaposition of terrorism, heartbreaking civil wars, and election squabbles up against the Prince of Peace tends to dampen what we used to call the Christmas Spirit. I, for one, still have that Spirit, but showing it seems to get harder and harder. I’m sure it’s come to the point for many where they just want Christmas to be over.

Blame it on God

Because of all this, it has become one of my deeper convictions that we should double our efforts to show that Spirit. Rather than succumb to the depressing fact that we live in somewhat of an inane world, maybe we should fight against it. Our weapon in this battle is the truth of the Gospel and the flow of the Spirit of Christ in our lives. This was once known as “The Greatest Story Ever Told.” It still is, but no one seems to understand that these days.

One of the oft-used portions of Scripture during the Advent/Christmas season is John 1:5—“The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” If our world seems dark, there remains a light within us that can shine in places that have never seen its brightness.

It’s Christmas. Let your light shine in someone’s darkness (and you can blame THAT on God).

[Dave Zuchelli is a graduate of Pittsburgh Theological Seminary and is currently the pastor of Smith Chapel, in Great Falls, VA.]


Aleppo: A Christmas to Remember

The tragic events in the Syrian city of Aleppo are having a significant impact on the rest of the world (at least they should). We have no shortage of misfortune and sorrow on this earth. Even TV commercials convey those sad facts to us.

Every day we see images of mistreated animals, hospitalized children, and heartbroken parents. There are constant pleas from benevolent organizations asking for help in the fight against cancer, aids, and world hunger. Terror attacks and inner-city shootings just add to the despair we often feel.

The Aleppo tragedy seems to encapsulate all of human suffering for us. I suppose this is, in part, due to the season in which it has come to a climax. But no matter when things like this occur, they are stark reminders of humanity’s inhumanity to humanity.

“You’ve been living in an ivory tower…”

If you haven’t seen pictures of the orphaned children of Aleppo, you’ve been living in an ivory tower somewhere (without satellite). The city looks like the aftermath of an apocalyptic battle scene. The devastation is unspeakable.

Forces have been fighting for control of Aleppo over the past four years. Cease-fires don’t seem to work, and the citizenry is caught in the middle. It’s painful to look merely at the photos. Actually being there must be agonizing. The people survive day-by-day in fear for their safety and often without access to some of the staples of life.

In situations like these, the question is often asked, “Where is God in all of this?” Indeed. Where is God? How can he allow so much suffering? Why doesn’t he simply snuff out the bad guys?

“Jesus came to save us from ourselves…”

I suppose the largest deterrent to God not snuffing out the bad guys is really simple. All of us are the bad guys. When approached on the subject, Jesus said, “No one is good but God.” (Mark 10:18) The fact of the matter is that’s why Jesus had to come. We always depersonalize it somewhat by saying Jesus came to save us from our sin. That’s true enough. But it could also be stated this way: Jesus came to save us from ourselves.

Aleppo is another example of what human beings are capable of when they are out of God’s will. Jesus not only came to die for our sin, he came to show us a better way to be—a better way to live.

In the book of Judges, there is a statement that has always haunted me. It says that in those days, “everyone did what was right in their own eyes.” (Judges 21:25) The every-man-for-himself attitude will always result in the eventuality of tragedies like Aleppo.

Some may say that Christmas is a lousy time to have to watch the devastation in Syria. Actually, if we have to see it at all, Christmas is probably the best time. At least at Christmas, we seem to be more attuned to the needs of others. May we begin to do what is right in Christ’s eyes rather than our own.

[Dave Zuchelli is a graduate of Pittsburgh Theological Seminary and is currently the pastor of Smith Chapel, in Great Falls, VA.]

Changing the Baby’s Diaper: A Christmas to Remember

Our youngest granddaughter is now six months old. I’m not sure how, but I’ve avoided changing a diaper until a few days ago. Granny and my daughter (the baby’s Mom) hijacked me into it. They were baking Christmas cookies and apparently decided it was time for me to be baptized.

Changing a diaper is something I haven’t done for years. In fact, I can’t remember the last time I had the privilege. I admit, I was a tad rusty at the process. I’ve changed my share over the years, but it’s definitely been a while.

“Both baby and Gramps are doing fine.”

As fortune would have it, of the two possibilities, I most certainly got the worst. Wet diapers are one thing—messy ones…well, they’re something else. I should add that it wasn’t as bad as it could have been. There was no diarrhea involved. I have old but vivid memories of that kind of experience (but we can save those for another time).

Lily (the grandbaby) and I came out smelling like roses (well, more like baby powder). Both baby and Gramps are doing fine. Another milestone passed…

Since this occurred near Christmas, it made me think of Mother Mary and the Baby Jesus. When she arrived in Bethlehem that fateful night, she was about as prepared as a young mother could be under those circumstances. I say that because we’re told she wrapped him is swaddling clothes. I doubt she found those lying around in the stable.

I’m not sure what first-century diaper bags looked like, but she must have had hers packed to the hilt. Along comes the baby Jesus, and Mary seems to have it all together. That’s kind of amazing when you think about it.

“Mary changed God’s diapers.”

What’s more amazing (and something we rarely allow to cross our minds), Mary changed God’s diapers. Mull that one over for a while. Nothing quite speaks to the humanity of Jesus like knowing he had to have his diapers changed (just like us). Talk about incarnation…

I’m not sure what your view of Heaven happens to be. My guess is, however, that it doesn’t include dirty diapers. The fact that the Son of God had dirty diapers while here on earth is almost unsettling. On the other hand, it shows the lengths God went to in order to save us. Becoming a human being had to be a disgusting transition for the Almighty to undertake. It’s rather unthinkable.

Still, he did it—and he did it for you and me. If dirty diapers were all he had to tolerate while here on earth, that probably wouldn’t have been quite so bad. On top of that was every other lousy function and experience we homo sapiens have to endure, including death. Of course, his death was far more excruciating than ours (try having the sin of the world heaped upon you). I think I would have tried finding another way to handle the situation.

By the way, did you know that diapers now have Velcro on them?

[Dave Zuchelli is a graduate of Pittsburgh Theological Seminary and is currently the pastor of Smith Chapel, in Great Falls, VA.]

Guest Blog: Confessions of a Mall Santa

I used to be a mall Santa. I dressed up as a hairy, overweight elf to bring joy to children. It was good honest work. Okay…it was honest work. For 3 to 4 hours a day, seven days a week, I would put on a fat suit, stretch the Febrezed beard over my chin, and sit on a green velveted throne while hundreds, nay thousands, of children were placed on my lap. They told me what they wanted for Christmas. I had my picture taken with them, and then I would give them a candy cane and send them on their way.

Mall Santa

Sounds fun, doesn’t it? It wasn’t. The worst part wasn’t the children, or the stinky beard the old guy had been wearing for 3 hours before your shift, or the costume that held the body odor from 20 years of Santas before you. It wasn’t even the fact that, by the end of the day, you would have a combination of all the bodily fluids a child can expel on your person. The worst part was the parents.

They were thrilled to have their children on Santa’s lap, but always at the expense of their own children’s sanity. Surprise! Some kids just don’t want to be there! Don’t want to be so close to that big, hairy, moving mound of red and white. Some kids just scream.

But parents don’t want pictures of screaming children on a fat man’s knee. So you might spend twenty minutes trying to get the kid to stop crying. The look on their faces was not fear, but blind, unrelenting terror. The picture taker would prance around holding a squeaky, stuffed animal trying to get the child to forget they were sitting on an enormous mutant elf who may or may not be, judging by his size, hungry for baby.

“Those three hours were relentless.”

There were also wandering groups of teenagers who thought it was funny to climb aboard Santa, all at once, for a gag picture—or the lonely middle aged women who wanted to sit on Santa’s lap because he might actually be a good looking man—or the lonely middle aged men who wanted to sit on Santa’s lap because he might actually be a good looking man. Those 3 hours were relentless.

So why did I do it? Maybe I did it because my Mom ran the booth. Or maybe I did it because, as an actor, it was a fun role to play. Sometimes, when things got slow, I would stand up and sing Christmas carols, and folks just seemed to love that. It was fun hearing what kids wanted for Christmas and it was satisfying to offer some assurance they might get what they wanted.

“Every year I waited for her.”

Tim Hartman

But there was one other reason. Every year I waited for her. I waited for that one child who reacted to being on Santa’s lap like no other child. It was usually a little girl. She would be between the ages of 2 to 4. Someone would place her on my knee and she would look up at me with eyes wide open with awe and wonder and an unwavering faith. She wouldn’t say a word. She just stared up at me. And then she would open her arms and bury her face in my beard.

No words, no list, no tears, just a hug that seemed to go on forever. She knew I WAS Santa. She knew that everything was going to be okay. And I would say, “Thank you. Merry Christmas.” And the little girl would climb off my knee and run, happily, back to her parents.

That’s what Christmas does for me. Christmas is a promise. Not a promise that life will be easy, but that it’s going to be okay. We can look up in awe and wonder and be certain that His gift, of a Son, will make everything work out all right in the end. Help me, Lord, to be that wide-eyed child of faith. Thank you. Merry Christmas.

[Tim Hartman is an actor, storyteller, singer, and artist. He currently resides in Pittsburgh, PA. See more about him at his website:]

Axial Tilt: The Reason for the Season

Just yesterday, someone caught me off guard by wishing me a Merry Christmas. It was in one of those retail places I had assumed I would never hear the phrase again. I pulled it together long enough to axial-tiltreturn the good wishes, but not soon enough to thank her for doing it. As you are well aware, we live in a time when the very word, Christmas, is verboten much of the time let alone wishing someone a merry one.

I’ve discovered that, for many in our society, it’s not enough to merely remove the word. They find it necessary to divert our attention from the deepest meaning of the Christmas celebration. It’s almost like it’s okay to celebrate giving, compassion, and joy just as long as we don’t actually celebrate the One who gave all that to us.

Case in point… I saw a sign on the Internet recently that said, “Axial Tilt is the Reason for the Season.” Indeed…

The Angle for the Winter Solstice

Axial tilt, of course, is that 23½-degree angle at which the earth rotates on its axis. Technically, the axial tilt is the reason for the season. In fact, it’s the reason for all the seasons—winter, spring, summer, and fall. It’s also responsible for the vernal and autumnal equinoxes as well as the summer and winter solstices.

That little sign distracted me long enough to go check my scientific facts. I already knew most of what I found from Junior High Earth & Space science class. That info was trapped deep in the hidden recesses of my mind. What I hadn’t realized was that it’s also thought to be a significant factor in climate change. Imagine that. (Let’s just save that one for another day.)

I wonder if people think they can distract us long enough to forget about the fact that we’re actually celebrating Jesus’ birthday. Yes, I know. He may not have actually been born on that date. But until we find his birth certificate, it’s as good as any and will have to do.

“Who’s got time to think about Jesus?”

The sad truth is many of us have all but forgotten the real reason for the season. Like my rediscovered scientific factoids, it’s hidden deep in the recesses of our minds. We know it, but we get distracted from it. Buying presents, decorating, jesusisthereasonfortheseasonplanning trips, and getting ready for parties consume us. Who’s got time to think about Jesus?

The simple answer to that one is, “We should.” Of all people, we should be the ones to make time to think about him. We should set aside time to consider who he is and what he’s done and provided for us. This whole Christmas thing was begun so we wouldn’t forget how important his birth happens to be. Yet we tend to embrace the trappings and forget why they came about in the first place.

Do yourself (and others) a favor this year. Set aside time to get into the spirit of things—the real Spirit. You’ll be glad you did.

[Dave Zuchelli is a graduate of Pittsburgh Theological Seminary and is currently the pastor of Smith Chapel, in Great Falls, VA.]

How Porky Pig Made My Christmas Bright

Everyone has their favorite Christmas songs (except for a few Scrooges here and there). “White Christmas” comes to mind as well as various carols such as “O Little Town of Bethlehem.” These all exude the meaning and/or emotions of Christmas. Whatever your special yuletide tune happens to be, I’m sure it’s just not Christmas until you hear it at least once.

I’m a skosh weird, as you may know. So, the song I need to hear to make my spirit bright is “Blue Christmas.” It can’t be just any rendition of Blue Christmas, mind you. With all deference to Elvis, it has to be the Porky Pig version for me. This porkyjust cracks me up every time I hear it. It’s not merely the way the Porkster sings it with his patented stutter; it’s also the classy, kazoo lead in the middle. But the thing that really tops it off is the guy in the back of the audience losing it every time Porky messes up a line. He just makes my day. His laughter is infectious.

“A song can make or break a season.”

I hadn’t heard it this year, so I pulled it up on YouTube as I began to write this blog. It worked its charm on me once again. The Pork-man has brightened my Christmas season one more time.

It’s funny how certain things will trigger the best responses from within us (or the worst). A song can make or break a season; a smile can make or break a date; a laugh can make or break an outing.

Still, it’s a little sad that much of what spurs us on in the Christmas season are things that don’t remind us of the New Born Savior and King (like my favorite Christmas song). In fact, we seem to be surrounded (even surround ourselves) with things that steer our attention away from “the reason for the season.”

“It doesn’t take much…”

When my kids were growing up, we tried to build traditions that pointed to Jesus and reminded us of why we celebrated his birth. Songs, gifts, family gatherings; all things that can (and probably should) be used to highlight the Incarnation were employed in our efforts. It really doesn’t take much to talk about Jesus, reasonrecord programs that emphasize the real meaning of the season, and rent movies that fortify a Christian understanding of giving.

Engaging your family in activities that serve others rather than ourselves, buying and sharing gifts for the less fortunate, and/or sharing your home with someone who will be alone are all ways to reach out rather than close ranks. These things often become more important over the years than opening the packages under the tree on Christmas morning.

And just in case you’re wondering, Porky is not the only Warner Brother star who brightens my day. I also love the Elmer Fudd rendition of “Kill the Rabbit.” (Although, I think that one is actually by Metallica.) It doesn’t exactly fit into the spirit of Christmas, however. We can save that for hunting season.

[Dave Zuchelli is a graduate of Pittsburgh Theological Seminary and is currently the pastor of Smith Chapel, in Great Falls, VA.]

Salli Watered the Plants

In my previous pastorate, the tradition was to keep live plants in the sanctuary. This not only happened on Sundays but often during an entire season as well. This was a wonderful tradition, but as many traditions go, it often fell to the pastor to take care of them. My thumb turned out to be less than green.

One day, a young woman by the name of Salli happened to be in the sanctuary and noticed that many of the plants were getting brown tips on their leaves. She brought that to my attention and said they needed watering more than on Sunday mornings. Normally, I would have translated that to mean, “Preacher, you need to water these plants more often.”

water-plantMuch to my surprise, however, Salli told me she would take it upon herself to water them on a regular basis. Not only was this a wonderful surprise, I was forever grateful to her. She didn’t live next to the sanctuary. I, on the other hand, not only lived within walking distance, my study (which I frequented on most days) was attached to that same sanctuary. I just wasn’t focused on watering plants, however.

“He had to use actual film…”

In my first parish, there was a man by the name of Jay. He and I shared the same birthday (although he was a good deal older than I). He loved birds and photography. After I arrived and he saw that the parish was becoming more active than it had been, he volunteered to take pictures at the various events. This was back in the days before digital cameras, and he had to use actual film that cost real money. He did much of it at his own expense. A lot of beautiful moments were preserved and shared because of Jay’s faithfulness.

When I arrived at my third parish, there was a man here by the name of Vernon. Vernon mowed the lawn, cleaned the sanctuary, and did anything else that had to be done around the church grounds. He wasn’t part of a paid staff. He just saw physical needs and took care of them. It was part of his ministry to the Lord.

“The Unsung Heroes…”

People like Salli, Jay, and Vernon are the lifeblood of the church. People like them see needs that others don’t see, and they just handle them. They are the unsung heroes of any congregation. People come and go and never realize what it takes to carry out ministry. Seldom do these heroes receive as much aeverydaysaintss a pat on the back. Even pastors tend to take them for granted.

Salli, Jay, and Vernon have all gone on to be with the Lord. I have no doubt where they are or that I’ll see them again someday. They are saints of God, and they (and others like them) are my inspirations to this day. I’m sure none of them saw themselves as exceptional, but they were all very special to me.

As always, God takes the ordinary and produces something beautiful.

[Dave Zuchelli is a graduate of Pittsburgh Theological Seminary and is currently the pastor of Smith Chapel, in Great Falls, VA.]

The Call to Be the Hired Help

servehim_ When I entered the full-time pastoral ministry in 1980, I assumed it was the best way to serve the Kingdom of God. I was quite sure of the Lord’s call in my life, and I still am. I suppose I could have done something else, but I’m not sure what that would have been. I’ll never know now.

That was well over thirty-five years ago, and I have to say I’ve never doubted that call or rued the fact that I answered it. I will say that it’s not always been easy, but it’s been a lot easier than I suspected it would be going in. The old saying seems to be true. “Time flies when you’re having fun.” I wouldn’t trade it for the world.

Clergy as Catalyst

I’ve served three different parishes in those thirty odd years. During that time, I’ve seen a lot of fruitfulness. God’s promise is true. He will always use us when we make ourselves available for his purposes.

I’d like to think I was used as a catalyst for some of that fruit. I certainly didn’t produce it, but seeing it planted, cultivated, grown, and harvested is a privilege I will always cherish. There’s nothing like it in the entire world.

priesthoodThinking back on it, however, there seemed to be an attitude that it was full-time ministry or nothing. By that I mean many people seemed to think that one either became a pastor or a missionary or they weren’t in ministry. Nothing could be further from the truth.

The laity is just as capable or more so than we clergy types. Part of our problem is what I just did—distinguish between laity and clergy. I seriously doubt the division between the two was ever meant to be so distinct (or maybe never meant to exist at all). Every person not called “pastor” can do things his or her pastor cannot do. In 1 Peter 2:9, he calls us a chosen people, a royal priesthood, and a holy nation. I’m pretty sure he was referring to all of us, not just the clergy.

The Hired Help

I often joke around and refer to people like myself as the “hired help.” Our function is not to do the work of the congregation. We’re simply there to help the church find fulfillment in their ministry. We have our own ministries, of course, but so does every believer.

help-wantedI sometimes wonder what I’ll do when I hang it up (retire). I can’t imagine myself sitting around waiting for the phone to ring. I might cease to be the hired help, but I’ll always be employed for the Lord somehow.

One of the greatest joys of any pastor is to watch as the laity takes the ministerial bull by the horns. Most of the growth I’ve ever seen springs from lay people who heard the Lord and followed his direction. Always remember who you are in Jesus—a priesthood of believers.

[Dave Zuchelli is a graduate of Pittsburgh Theological Seminary and is currently the pastor of Smith Chapel, in Great Falls, VA.]

Reinforcements for Baby Jesus?

Reportedly, the South American country of Venezuela is currently experiencing a 475% inflation rate. Not good… The government there has taken many steps over the years to level the playing field between the rich and poor with predictable results—runaway inflation being only one of them.

We’ve seen this scenario play itself out in country after country where governments think they know best and stick their fingers in everything. Governing entities usually work much better when they play as minimal a role as possible in people’s lives. Alas, they just can’t seem to help themselves.

grinchThe Venezuelan authorities have now taken things to a new level—maybe better stated as a new low. They are now bringing in reinforcements for Baby Jesus. How quaint…

In the past they have done things like nationalize the oil industry, set food prices to levels lower than production costs, and make unsustainable populist giveaways. All this and more has led to shortages of all kinds, interminably long lines at grocery stores, and a 70% poverty rate (so much for leveling the playing field).

The new tact of the political class has arrived just in time for the Christmas holiday season. The Venezuelan equivalent of our Consumer Protection Agency has confiscated about five million toys from the largest toy distributor in that country. The reason? Said distributor was supposedly hoarding the toys to sell them at an inflated rate. The government’s plan is to sell the toys at a discount—thirty percent or more. Sounds like a great business plan.

“That’s a lot of inventory”

People are accusing the government of being the Grinch because, as one might imagine, it’s very difficult for parents to actually get their hands on these toys. Even if these playthings get distributed in time, one has to wonder what this will do to the toy industry. Five million—that’s a lot of inventory.

The government has now not only tampered with the everyday lives of the Venezuelan people, it has messed up Christmas for them. Sounds like the makings of a revolution to me. There are some things you just can’t mess with.

nicolasmadurosantaclausIn a statement following the great toy confiscation, President Nicolas Maduro said, “This is like reinforcement for Baby Jesus.” Don’t you just love politicians? It’s not enough to ruin Christmas; we have to blame Jesus for it. Oh, the humanity!

I don’t presume to speak for Jesus on this matter, but it seems to me he can fend for himself. After all, he is the God of the universe (toy manufacturers and governments not withstanding). Sending in reinforcements might be a bit presumptuous at this point. I’m sure Nicolas was merely blowing smoke out his various bodily orifices anyway.

We all know that no toy hoarder is going to deter the Baby Jesus from riding all over the world to slide down chimneys and deliver the necessary toys to every boy and girl. Oh, wait! Jesus is not the one who does that. Hmm… Maybe we have a new St. Nick.

[Dave Zuchelli is a graduate of Pittsburgh Theological Seminary and is currently the pastor of Smith Chapel, in Great Falls, VA.]

The Christening: How About Murgatroyd?

I was perusing the Internet recently and ran across a story concerning the launching of a new submarine. I always found it fascinating that the word, “christening,” is used for such events. The particular sub in question was named the Colorado. It’s apparently the fourth U.S. Navy ship to be named after a state.

The first dictionary definition of the term, christening, goes something like this: “give (a baby) a Christian name at baptism as a sign of admission to a Christian Church.” I’m not sure how we got from giving babies Christian names at baptism to naming ships, but I suspect it was an interesting journey. We don’t baptize ships (unless breaking a bottle of champagne across her bow counts). There may have been a time when we gave boats Christian names, but that practice seems to be long gone.

submarineI remember several years ago when peace groups were protesting the name of a new nuclear submarine. The stink was over the fact that such a destructive weapon of war should be given a peaceful, Christian name like Corpus Christi (Latin for the Body of Christ). I understood the complaint, but it missed the point somehow. This particular sub was part of a group being named after cities in the U.S. The Navy was honoring Corpus Christi, Texas and not Jesus. Nevertheless, it caused quite a stir.

I baptize thee…

The funny thing about all this is the original use of the word, christening. It’s all but defunct in the Christian world—at least in the circles I travel. No one waits until the baptism to name their child anymore. When they do name them, it’s seldom with what we used to refer to as a “Christian name.” I can’t remember the last time I heard christening used in conjunction with a human being. It seems to have been relegated to ships, cars, and bedrooms.

Before Jesus left this earth, he instructed us to “go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” (Matthew 28:19) What he failed to mention was they should be given Christian names when they were baptized. Of course (if you think about it), there was no such thing as a Christian name in those days. I suppose the name, Jesus, was the closest thing to it.


My child rearing days are long past (at least, I hope they are). But, if I were to have another child, I think I would lobby for the first name of Murgatroyd (as in, “heavens to…”). I’ve heard it used as a surname, but never as a first name. It has such a great ring, don’t you think?

On the other hand, if I was baptizing an infant and the parents told me the child’s name was to be Murgatroyd, I think I might laugh out loud. Maybe I should switch over to Colorado as my choice. Or maybe I just shouldn’t have any more kids.

[Dave Zuchelli is a graduate of Pittsburgh Theological Seminary and is currently the pastor of Smith Chapel, in Great Falls, VA.]