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.