I’m feeling the stress of Advent creep into my bones.
This weekend we had our big Christmas at the Cabin weekend with my side of the family and friends. Such a good time. So full of wonderful Christmas memories for the children. So good to visit and not have a baby attached to me that I need constant supervision over. Christmas carols, food, late conversations into the night, Nerts games by day. All is well. We come home and unpack in a reasonable time and fix a light dinner then realize the Christmas Encounters church program is in less than half an hour. Little girls need to be in dresses, hair needs brushed, boy needs jeans, kids need shoes and winter coats.
We’re almost there. No time to redo my messy braid but I do manage to throw on a red Christmasy-ish shirt and ribbon. Girls are beautiful with a special strand each of mom’s pearls. Dad says all are ready and we rush toward the van. Then I realize that boy is still not in jeans. He is in van with coat and shoes but also pj pants covered in food from the past two days. I rush him back inside as he whines that he has no jeans. I yell. I am not pleasant. We hurry into jeans that I find for him and rush back to car.
Still on time, I think. We pull into parking lot and I realize, with a pit in my stomach, that my camera is sitting on boy’s bed back home. I’m feeling really frustrated. I wanted a picture of their song. I wanted a picture of the girls in front of the Church Christmas tree looking beautiful. I wanted this Christmas memory captured. I seek out hubby to take over kids and run back home. I hear an emphatic NO and I know he’s right, but I feel panicky. We rush in to find seats in the crowded auditorium.
We sing. The opening song is beautiful. Mary Did You Know. This was the song my mother requested we learn this Christmas. My kids know the words and are excited to hear it. It is a beautiful accapella rendition except one of the main singer’s microphones aren’t on and you can barely hear him compared to the sound of the others on stage and I see the worship leader straining a smile as he keeps singing and pretends it’s not happening and I know he has a pit in his stomach too because this isn’t how the night was suppose to go.
I start to slow and say a quick pray for God to change my heart. What I want to do is tell my boy that it was his fault that my camera is not here to capture this moment. What I do instead is bite my tongue and hug him him and rub his back during the song. My heart is pierced with how broken I am. I am so glad I did not let ugly sin words stain this night and break my boy’s spirit.
Soon my littlest girl is squirming in my lap and making noises that are disruptive. I realize that with her I wouldn’t have been able to hold a camera and take pictures anyway. I remover her after hearing the kids sing and we traverse to the bathroom and then hang out in the foyer. I meet another large family mother with two littles crawling around her and we commiserate together. I tell her my story and she tells me hers. She didn’t want to come but her son really wanted to go. She capitulated at the last moment and dropped everything, very literally, with her mixer still sitting in potatoes and milk and no supper in anyone’s belly except for a rushed grabbed cookie. She realized that if she was going to make the decision to go it had to be now regardless of circumstances. And here she was in the middle of that act of love sitting on the floor in the foyer with littles that wouldn’t sit still and be quiet missing the whole thing.
I returned to my seat for the last two songs thinking about this woman and her story while singing the chorus of O Come Let Us Adore Him. The last song was a raucous rendition of Joy to the World. As I was swaying the baby and enjoying the music a line jumped out at me.
Let every heart prepare Him room…”
How do we even do that? Prepare Him room? What does that even mean?
I think of our tradition of keeping Advent. Of meeting nightly and reading scripture and singing songs to remember. Surely this is good. Surely this is what that means. Or so I have always thought. Yet every Advent season I walk away feeling slightly still empty. Sure there were good memories, beautiful pictures. Yet there is always something that I can’t put my finger on that seems missing or off kilter. I always thought of Advent as a time to draw nearer to the Lord. And I always chalked up my not feeling nearer due to this season of life with littles. Surely one day when everyone was bigger and could sit still and not fidget, when everyone really got what Christmas was about, surely then Advent would fill up my soul and satisfy that yearly holiday longing.
But as I listen to Joy to the World and think of that line again I begin to wonder if my thinking is what’s off kilter.
Let every heart prepare Him room…”
I think of Mary in that dirty stable. I think of her in real pain from labor. I think of the messiness of birth with no sanitary hospital staff to whisk it away. I think of being up all night with a crying, fussy child who won’t latch on properly. I think of being bone-tired and no matter what not abdicating responsibilities. I think of raising a toddler who won’t sit still while wise men come in a formal display of gifts. I think of the frustration of how this ceremony feels less than ceremonial with a toddler’s antics. Did Jesus hide shy-like behind his mother’s skirt or did he interrupt wise speakers by poking at the fancy feather on the turban?
Mary was in no different season of life than I. She knew this was the Holy Child. The Savior. Did she so very often ask her Father above why this experience didn’t feel very “holy” at all? Or did she understand in a way that we too often don’t that He chose this vehicle of human experience exactly because it’s not holy. Because in our brokenness He meets us.
Maybe preparing for Him is recognizing those moments when life interrupts and instead of trying to fix it we allow Him in during that very unholy moment in order to sanctify us. Maybe we need to stop waiting for a feeling to show up and instead focus on moving over a little in our hearts. We make room in our own brokenness to prepare room for Him to show up. Is it as simple as that?
So I’m going to hop off this mom guilt-train of not “feeling” spiritual enough and just prepare Him room by allowing Him into my mess this Christmas. Won’t you join me?