How’s your Advent been going?
Mine hasn’t quite gone as I planned.
Every year I have this hope for a somewhat peaceful Advent, where life slows down and we take time to reflect upon the meaning of this season. This year I wanted to simplify and focus on what matters.
But the fact was we were at the tail end of a year long basement renovation project that my husband and I had done ourselves for the most part. Finishing the unfinished 1000 square foot basement has taken us about six months longer than we thought it would take, but we do have four kids, one who is an infant, in the mix… we are doing our best considering all that is on our plate. We have been pushing ourselves to finish it before Christmas, so my Advent has consisted of not only school and office Christmas parties, but painting 1000 square feet of space, laying tile, grouting and laying flooring.
With weekends filled with pushing ourselves to accomplish as many items on our checklist and weekdays filled with the normal full speed life we live, we are so tired by the end of the day that many nights have gone by without lighting our Advent Wreath and a telling of the story. Throw in the crazy number of activities this time of year, one kid’s birthday a week before Christmas, and the chaos of life a family of 6 brings, and well my Advent plans for that somewhat peaceful, reflective Advent have gone out the window.
Then last week it got worse… kids started throwing up. A nasty stomach bug that is tearing through the girls school took them both out. Thankfully our boy hasn’t gotten it yet, but instead he has been experiencing night terrors so he has been coming in nightly the last few weeks scared, needing comfort. Between the throwing up and the scared Sweet Boy, our nights haven’t been so silent.
And then I lost it yesterday. My Joy Baby has been sick with a cold and super clingy lately. Yesterday morning she was miserable and I was unable to put her down. But it was the morning of my son’s Christmas program at school and kids had to be dressed and fed. Trying to balance what needed to happen that morning with a baby in my arms put me on the edge by the time we were ready to walk out the door. But we made it, we got everyone in the car and pulled out on time amazingly!
No sooner had I turned out of our neighborhood than I heard my Joy Baby gag a bit. I barely got out the words, “Please don’t throw up!” before she projectile vomited everywhere! Before I knew it, the word “sh*t” was out of my mouth for all the kids to hear and tears started down my face, as I spun the car around and headed home. No wonder she didn’t want me to put her down this morning.
I pulled in next to my husband who was about to pull out to head to a meeting that morning. He took care of the baby and vomit, as I called for reinforcements, my dear Mother who saved the day by coming to take care of the throwing up Joy Baby, while I headed back to my son’s Preschool for his Christmas program.
As I drove, I thought, “What a mess God. This Advent hasn’t been anything like I hoped and I am completely worn out.” And the thought occurred to me… It is precisely into the mess that our God comes isn’t it?!
My thoughts went to this white bowl I have sitting on the table by my chair where I sit with Jesus. A bowl filled with hay. Hay my son brought home from his Sunday School class at church in an envelope.
My first thought when I saw the envelope of hay was, “What in the world do I do with this?!?” I even said to my husband, “Why do they send this stuff home with our kids?! What are we supposed to do with it?!”
But I have a hard time throwing things away so this envelope of hay sat on my kitchen counter for a day or so. As I thought about it, I thought, you know this might be a good thing to have out to reflect on. So I put it in a pretty bowl and have had it in my quiet time spot ever since.
I’ve been sitting with the reality that this is what our Savior, God come down, nestled in for his first nap as a newborn baby. No perfectly decorated nursery with soft sheets and sweet mobile hanging above him.
No, our God became flesh and was laid in scratchy, itchy hay in a feed trough that cows and sheep ate out of in the middle of a stable with animals, so you know there was some poop lurking on the floor in there. It was not a perfect, pristine scene from a Hallmark Card friends, it was a messy, stinky stable. Into this our God comes.
As I thought about the hay and manger, the animals and the stable, and about our God come down into that mess, I thought, you know what? God comes into the midst of throw up and sick kids with snotty noses, into drywall dust and paint splatters, into a house that is an absolute disaster because I don’t have the time or the energy to clean it up, into a Christmas performance where I got front row seats to my son not singing a single song but instead crying and having the teacher pull him back and sitting with him behind all the kids so I couldn’t even see him for the whole program, and even into the midst of an Advent Wreath that doesn’t have all the candles lit that it should.
No this Advent has not been what I thought or planned or hoped, but God is here in the midst of my life as it is, not as I planned or hoped it would be.
He is Immanuel, God with us, the God that comes into the mess of our everyday lives whatever they contain.
Friends, no matter the state of your home or heart… whether you feel you have it all together days before Christmas or you feel completely undone and a mess… our God, He is there with you.
He is coming friends. Our God is coming into our lives whatever they may hold to remind us of His love, His love that would bring Him low and allow Him to places His precious divine head on a bed made of hay.
May you experience even more deeply the truth of Immanuel, God with us, this Christmas Friends.
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