The counter is littered with Christmas sticky. White frosting right from the plastic tub. Orange and red and green peppermint wrappers in tufts of crinkle. Graham crackers adhered to paper plates, white snow cement in double and triple story. One house is for a dog. The other is modern, kind of Eichleresque. The other is a railroad car; it’s the second attempt after the sleek barn design crashed to five pieces when it got dropped on the floor.
This can’t be what it means to celebrate advent at Christmas, can it?
I ignore the mess and focus on the task of rolling out sticky gingerbread dough. This is a new recipe, from Abby’s pink princess cookbook, and the dough leaves clumps of brown goo on our fingers as we transfer the funny, weird shaped men to the metal sheet and sprinkle them, faces and toes and all, with sugar. (I do not have the patience, nor the time, for detail. There will be no cute two eyes nor little vests nor buttons on these men, oh no.) When we are finished I am on my hands and knees, damp cloth in hand, collecting errant sugar sprinkles promising to stick to socks and bare feet.
In advent we wait on and watch for Jesus, yet why is it such a fight to slow down?
There are boxes of Christmas decorations I didn’t get out this year. Not the cranberry wreath I usually hang on the oval mirror. Not the votives. Not even the two nativity sets (dare I say that?), the wooden one the kids used to grasp with little fingers, the ceramic one from Justin’s family. I consider the situation: Our little house is more filled than ever with sprawling children-turned adolescents and a dog that’s in front of me everywhere I turn and I trip over wherever I walk. The boxes sit out for a few days, right under the attic door. And then I surrender, convinced that less is more for us this year. (It is helpful that my Abby, who holds opinions about decorations, agrees). And heave them back up onto the attic floor.
This December feels like it has been busier than most for our family, but maybe I feel this way every year? Maybe it is the same challenge each of us face every day, no matter what season:
Am I choosing space to be with God? Am I aware of my missing Him? Am I working/walking alongside Him? Am I taking time to recognize the whisper of His voice?
A few days ago Justin asked me if I would listen for what God’s whisper might be for the men in his group. They were coming over to our home for the evening, celebrating Christmas together with stories and laughter, cheers and encouragement. I had met only a few of them before, in person. I didn’t know their stories, their wounds, their struggles and victories. But they were coming into our home; they were going to fill this place, the home God has given us as a way to love people, and I wanted to hear what God might have to say.
And I sat down. I was eager to hear, to listen. I realized I was longing to listen for God’s voice. I was longing to hear truth whispered to my heart. It took my husband’s invitation to search God’s heart for these dear brothers to remind me how I am made, how God’s voice, his heart and love, is what fuels me. It is my favorite thing to do.
How do we forget what we love in this season of waiting, of expecting? How do we forget the whisper that makes our heart sing?
It’s easy to forget, isn’t it?
This is how I want to spend these next days of Advent: slowing, listening, waiting. In the midst of busy, seek peace. In the midst of messy, be okay. When life feels especially full, we can just take that deep breath, wait on the one who knows who we are and what we need. And I am going to do this in the midst of the circumstances that are sometimes less than quiet and peace-filled.
You can do this, dear Jesus. You are here, as we look to you. You are here, rescuing us from hustle. Slow our hearts. Right now . . . Slow us down. Together we pray, Amen.
How are you doing this Christmas season? How can I pray for you ?