Advent (1)

Advent: The season leading up to Christmas, beginning the fourth Sunday before Christmas Day.

The candles sit unlit on the kitchen table, even though it is already the second week of Advent. I had imagined that we’d light them, like last year, week-by-week at dinner, eat in the glow of all that tradition.

But dinner these days goes like this: the two-year-old is out of his mind, strung out on the excess of emotion; the baby is exhausted. Both are wanting to be held at the exact moment that the pasta is bubbling over and the spaghetti sauce is sputtering big red dollops all over the stovetop.

We can’t even remember which candle coincides with which week. Is the first week Hope? Or Peace? Which one is Joy? I mean to figure all this out and label the candles, but the dog is up on the table, the garlic bread down his throat before anyone can stop him.

I made a good start at the shopping before Thanksgiving even came around. I planned to have it done before the season even started. I planned Occupy Advent in my own soft way, out of the harsh fluorescent lights of the big box stores, next to the lit tree with my blankets and my books.

But the baby is screaming now: a tooth is coming, slowly, painfully. The early Christmas shopping is abandoned; the quiet moment retreats. My Twitter feed is buzzing with all this talk of contemplation and silence and Advent.

The laundry is half-done, half lying-at-the-bottom of the stairs. There are unanswered emails and uncleaned floors, and, besides all that, there is this irrational desire to make brownies that look like Santa hats and pancakes that look like snowmen and a homemade manger set for Dane.

He is 2 ½ now, and this is the year that he comes to a flickering awareness of Christmas. I am feeling the pressure to make it memorable, to start new traditions, to fill the snowglobe of our December with so much swirling magic.

I want him to have Rudolph and the Grinch and his first cup of cocoa from a mug. I want his reflection in the minivan window, mouth open in awe as he looks at the lights. I want the month to ring with the sound of jingle bells and carols, to smell like cinnamon, to taste like snow, fresh off his mitten.

But also, I want to give him Jesus, asleep in the straw. The songs of angels. The quiet moment that changed everything. I want him to know that at the deep soul of the season is the quiet, unremarkable night when Light broke into the world.

I sing to him, “Away in the Manger.” I sing “Silent Night.” He sings along politely, then says, “How bout Jingle Bells?”

But when we pray, he thanks Jesus for his best friend, Axel, and for his trains and for fruit snacks, and then he says, “Thank you for Baby God.” And it is hope and joy and peace, all the candles lit at once: a brief, bright moment of Love shining into the loud, wild moments of Advent.

12 thoughts on “Advent (1)

  1. Oh, bless you. I love honest earthy posts and this one is so excellent. We all know what it’s like to have that glaring divide between our expectations and the mess that really is. What struck me reading this is that you really describes very well what the Incarnation is: it’s Emmanuel, God in our Midst. Infant God Incarnate came right down into the middle of our mess. Exactly so.

    1. Thank you, Stephanie! Lovely thoughts, and I’m so glad you can empathize with all the Messy! It feels like the pressure to do Christmas (and Advent) “right” come at you from all sides this time of year. Praying for the grace to celebrate even when everything goes wrong.

    1. I know! It amazes me when he says something like this without any prompting. From the mouths of babes I guess…

  2. I was laughing out loud reading “life” and remembering so well some of the same kinds of moments. You are wonderfully real and can so capture real life in words. I loved Dane’s perfect description and I too am above and beyond thankful for “baby God”. I never cease to be amazed at how God uses kids to speak Truth to us and remind us of what matters most.

  3. What a wonderful post. I relate 100%! About the only difference is that I don’t have a dog jumping up on the table eating the garlic bread. I do have the same irrational desire to craft things that I have no time for, while laundry for six people piles up. I would be happy if all I got for Christmas was an empty laundry hamper(s)! 🙂
    As everyone else has said, thank you for your honesty once again. I feel the pressure to do all these great traditions and to make Christmas so “magical,” but really, it is just Baby God that we need to remember, just like you said. Sure wish we were closer so we could do hot chocolate and snowmen together. 🙂

  4. Thank you, Addie, for this. You have your Dad’s way with words and apparently Grandma Grace’s quiet way of preaching God’s word.

  5. When I read “The quiet moment that changed everything,” I couldn’t help but think: That moment was anything but quiet, inside the stable. It may have been quiet for the majority of the world, but I’m gonna bet Mary was screaming while Jesus was being born. So–up close and personal, it ain’t perfect (it was in a stable, hello), and it ain’t quiet. Just like life for the rest of us. 🙂

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