I hung a wreath on the door and spread the Christmas plaid tablecloth on the dining room table just before they arrived and the tree went up the day before they left, and not much else advent or Christmas-related happened.
We hardly touched the slips of paper enfolded in our green advent calendar hanging on the basement door in the kitchen. Suddenly, the company was gone and the house needed cleaned and I was all run-down and throwing up.
And there were two days to pull it together and rest before Monday happened.
Real life can’t be paused no matter what you feel.
It was seven days before Christmas when I looked at the calendar and shook my head. Of the many things we were going to do in our advent of giving, the one thing I really wanted to do was make Christmas cookies and bring them round to our neighbors and some local church families.
But here it was, exactly seven days from December 25th and I hadn’t even baked one single Christmas treat.
I peeked at all the papers of our advent calendar and I felt it, this frenzied feeling of failure, as I realized that it was December 18th and we hadn’t done one single thing for our advent of giving. The Jesse tree sat forlorn and forgotten.
And I just wanted to forget about Christmas, because when I looked at all those creative and fun ideas that didn’t happen, all I could think was, What’s the use now?
I was soaking in the tub, the night after baking dozens of cookies, when I told him:
“I was up to my head in cookies today, feeling frantic to get them baked and iced, and there was just mess everywhere. I wanted to pull out my hair more than once, when Leo wouldn’t just play for a bit or when Kyle wanted to get into stuff he knows he shouldn’t. And I thought about you and I know it was God’s grace, because I stopped long enough to look into Kyle’s eyes and Leo’s…and all I could think was that I could bake beautiful cookies and take them to our neighbors, but if I don’t love these children and love you well, my plates of cookies are nothing but stale crusts of bread. Loving my neighbor starts at home.”
“I am disappointed how we didn’t do some of the things we’d planned for advent this month, but what is the point of advent anyways?”
If advent is the coming of our King and celebrating advent is lying in wait for Jesus coming incarnate so He could literally be Emmanuel, God with us, and all I can think is how I didn’t stick to the carefully laid advent plans…then I have missed the whole point.
You will that mortal flesh to silence and you see how Emanuel has come to the season of advent, not in perfectly packaged presents and gourmet cookies for the neighbors.
No. You see how He is here in the stacks of dirty dishes and the forgotten loads of laundry, in the curious eyes of your toddler and the longing gaze of your infant.
You see how the babe in the manger brought redemption for all, how the season of advent is not so much about a calendar or special plans, than it is a turning of your one heart to see how He has come.