A holy hush spills over the room. A solitary candle illuminates the figure of Mary on the donkey, large with child, making her way toward meager accommodations. Eyes shine with the reflected flame.
Then, the preschooler tries cutting fire with safety scissors, at least one child gets up for a snack, cereal grit mars the Insta-worthy Advent photo…and it took two minutes of listening to the Advent devotional song to realize it was sung in English, not Latin.
It’s a tough thing to soldier on sometimes. Oh sure, sometimes it wells up in us with a fit of inspiration and an (un)healthy dose of comparisons on the side. Because we do that, don’t we? We cram ourselves into a mold we were never designed to occupy. To add insult to injury, we then berate ourselves for the ill-fitting mold chaffing our souls.
I’m not an Elf-on-the-Shelf, bake-All-The-Things kind of mom. We have a Shepherd on the Search…who we have never named…and who gets hidden all over God’s creation by whomever happens to find him first. We adore him, but this daily moving and creating magical scenarios is not my jam. Our nameless shepherd got the raw end of the deal when he entered our lives. Sorry, little fella.
In fact, any daily “thing” proves a challenge for our family. Can I get an “Amen?” The days are unpredictable, and more often than not, something goes a little sideways. Nevertheless, good intentions continue to pave the way.
Which is why I finally bought an Advent wreath I’ve been eyeing for a gazillion years. Makes sense, amiright? Has trouble sticking to daily plans…purchases expensive daily wreath. BRILLIANT. It arrived. I opened it reverently and packed it back up until its appointed inauguration. I ordered candles to fit the wreath. And forgot Advent began on November 28th this year. We were behind before we had even begun. The all-natural, golden beeswax candles were delayed in shipping. No problem. Jesus had a manger for a bassinet. We can make do. On December 2nd, I plunked a boring white tealight candle on the wreath and slogged through an Advent devotion I Googled right before summoning the children. Friends, learn from my folly. We disbanded after an awkward attempt at enthusiasm and I sat staring at that obnoxious silver candle. It didn’t fit. It wasn’t pretty. And the devotion was bleh.
God has a way of chiming in when we are ten shades of bleh. As I checked my email after staring down that horrid non-Adventy candle, a dear friend had sent a delightful Advent study to me. It combined artwork, poetry, scripture, music, and a devotional. In short, it was the thing missing in the equation (besides the dern candle).
It’s been a beautiful thing to gather amongst the cereal crumbs, interruptions, and miscellaneous craft projects (I’m looking at you, pile of highly flammable paper snowflakes). The beauty isn’t found in the perfect devotional or the perfect table setting. It’s not in beeswax candles or even in the spendy wreath. True worth is in the gathering. God’s people, now more than ever, huddle around intimate tables, grit and all. Jesus is folding His people toward tables and pews and halfway houses. He is stirring the heart of His Church.
Ongoing pandemic? Check!
Explosive politics? Check!
Strained budgets? Check!
Fill in the blank…check, check, check!
We’re stretched to the breaking point.
He pulls you and I into the grit of Christmas. We rub elbows with the nativity story and wonder anew at the simplicity and intricacy of the Christ Child’s humble beginnings. And it’s really the only mold we’re designed to fill.
With a week left in Advent, I just discovered my beloved beeswax candle order was canceled weeks ago. Apparently, it pays to check emails from Amazon. Who knew? A fresh set have been ordered and are due to arrive January 4th…in plenty of time for the Lenten season.