During Advent I imagine cutting and polishing a beautiful stone. With soft sweet hymns and hopeful prayers, prophesies and scripture. I imagine that it is my job to capture and magnify light. I imagine holding the stone carefully, looking for imperfections.
But when I hold it to the light, still off in the distance, but coming, a thousand flashlights are pointing at me. These pale imitations are annoying. Worse, they are distracting and blinding. And sometimes I drop the stone and it gets all scraped up.
I love Christmas. I love Advent because it sets up Christmas. I need time to prepare. I need time to get ready. I need Advent.
Last year when I put away the Christmas stuff, I packed the Advent stuff in a separate box. This might seem obvious, but it was the first time it had occurred to me. While the Christmas stuff was lugged all the way up the ladder into the barely accessible attic, the Advent box was tucked on the top shelf of my closet. This year I thought I would be ready.
On Sunday I was at my mom's house, so Monday was the first day we were home this Advent. I brought down my box and realized I wasn't ready after all. I had not bought candles. I had not bought a calendar. My thoughtfully packed boxed was filled with two advent wreaths, a half finished felt Jesse tree project, and the Elf on the Shelf. I didn't even have purple ribbon or a door wreath. I usually use a pink table cloth with a purple runner. Neither is really seasonal or if they are they are meant for Spring, not Winter. Of course, they were not in my box. Not in my box means probably in the house, but we are not finding them today. So, I set the table with a solid pink bed sheet and a scrap of purple fabric, unhemmed. I had the wreath, sensible stored, and I filled it with half used candles from previous years.
I am not ready for Christmas. I am not even ready for Advent. I've got my Pinterest perfect ideas so tangled that I am not ready to get ready. I am too busy resisting the secular caricature of the coming Holy day to experience these holy days.
Life is not a series of Instagram moments. It isn't always picture perfect and it isn't supposed to be.
As a culture, we're not big on waiting. We want instant everything. Instant food. Instant TV. Instant communication and instant responses. We want it all right now.
Without Christ, Christmas is empty. Advent is the season when we prepare for Christ, but not just in Christmas. He is coming back! Advent is special. Advent says there is value in waiting. There is value in mindful preparation. This moment is important in a way which will be missed on film. This moment might be missed altogether. Quiet, contemplative, deliberate, open, aware.
We won't find perfect. We might find glimpses of perfection. We might even capture an illusion in a picture. But until he comes again in glory, it is an goal or an illusion. Life is messy, each and every day. Whatever you are doing, offer it to Him. He doesn't need the world's cutest Christmas card. He needs you. Slow down.
Christmas is coming! Christ is coming! Prepare!
In all the chaos, God speaks in a gentle whisper. Make room for the quiet. Or all the preparations are nothing.
"I wait for the Lord,
my soul waits
and I hope for his word." Psalms 130:5