In the midst of this Advent season, a time for reflection and preparation for the coming of Christmas, I've been pushing back the desire to throw up my hands and quit. How is it that the most wonderful time of the year is packed, not with love, peace, joy and expectation, but stress, chaos and exhaustion? These dark days before Christmas aren't holly and jolly, they are filled with garish Christmas decorations and frantic shopping trips. Already full schedules are pushed to breaking with Christmas plays, concerts, extra shopping, and decorating. There is so much pressure to be merry and no extra time to manage all the bright, that it's no wonder the other day I found myself throwing slices of bread at one of my kids after I had first thrown a mommy tantrum over the disorder in our house (because, by the way, it is also impossible to keep a clean and peaceful house this time of year). After the bread flew, we laughed.
A while back, before I had caught on to this Christmas deception, I announced to my mom with my first child in my arms, "It's August." Her reply dripped with dread: "Oh no. That means only three months until Christmas." I laughed awkwardly because...I.had.no.idea. It's a little like pregnancy or having a baby. Nobody talks about the bad parts. Moms hesitate to reveal all the gory details of the birth of a child to the newly pregnant. It would be too scary. Yet, we encourage our newly married to have babies! We are bombarded with images of happy moms and cute babies. "So much love. So much happiness. You should do it too." These images seem to say. Christmas images are the same. Everywhere you turn, there are pictures of people serenely, perfectly, and joyfully ccelebrating the season.
Yet, as it is with babies and life, Advent is filled with imperfection. It's messy. It's never, ever perfect. It's rarely peaceful. So, again, we as a people moan and suffer under the weight of the human condition. We are weak. We are pulled down by our mistakes. If we do actually take some time to stop and reflect, the voices of the past fill our ears. Voices of regret, disgust, and sadness.
Isn't it interesting that at Christmas we welcome Jesus as a baby? A baby that is full of hope and sweetness, so gentle and so dear. A baby born into a cold, dark, imperfect world. He was born and placed in a manger where cows slobber and munch no less! Just imagine Jesus as a new little baby with perfectly soft skin in a cow trough! Not only that, he was also born into a crazy, frenzied world similar our modern advent season. Joseph and Mary were looking for a place to stay in the midst of hoards of people also looking for lodging, kind of like Christmas shopping. Although Joseph was a just man, he forgot to make reservations during the busy census season!
In the end, the Advent season builds itself up to the crescendo of Christmas day. Our children, already maxed out on sugar and excitement, rip and tear into presents. We crowd ourselves around the Christmas table with family and friends and with stuffed stomachs try to taste just one more bite of the delicious holiday food.
Then, in an instant, it's all over. And what is left? Life. The hum drum and daily grind. We still need that tiny baby. We still need someone to save us. Jesus, the King of Kings, is there. He sleeps in the deepest peace. The world swirls around him, yet he is serene. He's there for each of us just as we are. He's there for me. A mom who chucks slices of bread at her children. A mom who can't get the tree decorated completely or bake a batch of cookies. A wife who fails on many levels to love her husband well. A daughter who forgets to call her parents. A failing friend. A human longing to be saved from my weaknesses, mistakes and regrets.
There he is, snuggled up in hay.
The moment is timeless since he is the eternal.
Be still my soul.
Don't give up.
There is always hope.
"And the one seated on the throne said, 'Behold, I make all things new." Revelation 21:5