Advent hits a Wall…

I have to be honest with you. We have hit a bump in our Advent procession.

Well. Maybe a wall.

Things have been busy. The kids have not been into the readings. We have been stressed. Steve began a new level of management, which includes being called in at 4am some mornings…and working on until his usual 6pm. We’ve been grumpy and stressed the last few days.

Add to the mix that I realized I needed to give up the goal of writing our own Bible curriculum this year as I have lost most of my study time with all the other changes. Loss of study time leads to grumpy Sarah.

So yesterday I was uber grumpy and we did no readings, no lighting of candles, no talk of Advent.

I gave up. Kids were bickering and I just let them and let them know I was disappointed in them and, well, this kinda sucked.  Yep. A few of those days.

Here’s the thing though…this morning, I still hid the Elf on the Shelf. He is hiding with a marker in his hands that he used to draw mustaches on all the family members in the pictures on the bookshelf. And I wasn’t grumpy when I did that. I was thinking about Sammy when he will come downstairs looking for that Elf.

Sammy at seven is in that perfect age to wake up every morning and ask how many more days until Christmas. He in in the age of wondering aloud about all the magic of Christmas. He is in the age of embracing all the wonder and all the excitement. He asks me when we are going to load up with our hot chocolate and our popcorn to drive around and look at the Christmas lights. All the kids love Christmas, but my Sammy…he is the one.

He is the one who keeps me in the wonder.

I know that part of my frustration and part of my “grumpiness” is fueled by the ache that comes in from Christmas lost. The ache in knowing I cannot share any of this joy in seeing my kids enjoy Christmas, especially Sammy or Madeleine, with my mom…and that is hard. There is pain there and sometimes instead of just acknowledging that I try to ignore it. Instead it comes out in frustration and seeps into the rest of the season as an overarching grumpiness.

So many have aches and loneliness and pain through this season.

Hurt and sorrow. True, deep pain which this season seems to bring a spotlight upon. We need to have grace for one another and realize that sometimes when we are being grumpy and short, or even just wanting solitude, it may be our way of tending to that ache.  It is hard to see any wonder in those moments.

I came across this in my reading, and it eased the ache, and I hope it does so for you as well. Buechner once again brings me back on track in my Advent pursuit. As a mom, I needed this this morning. If you’ve had a few days of the kids being wild, which tends to happen at Christmas time, if you’ve had a few days of feeling ragged and frazzled…take the time to read this. Maybe in the bathroom. Or another dark corner. With a coffee and Reeses. Not that I did that.

Seriously though…we cannot quiet the truth of Christmas because the truth is so dramatic. Even when we get sidetracked. Even when our aches and our sorrow and our loneliness become loud. Even when we get frazzled. The truth of Christmas is not shadowed by the Elf on the Shelf, or by Rudolph.   It survives because it is not fairytale.

The truth of Christmas…well…read on:

Christmas itself is by grace. It could never have survived our own blindness and depredations otherwise. It could never have happened otherwise. Perhaps it is the very wildness and strangeness of the grace that has led us to try to tame it. We have tried to make it habitable. We have roofed it in and furnished it. We have reduced it to an occasion we feel at home with, at best a touching and beautiful occasion, at worst a trite and cloying one. But if the Christmas event in itself is indeed—as a matter of cold, hard fact—all it’s cracked up to be, then even at best our efforts are misleading.

The Word become flesh. Ultimate Mystery born with a skull you could crush one-handed. Incarnation. It is not tame. It is not touching. It is not beautiful. It is uninhabitable terror. It is unthinkable darkness riven with unbearable light. Agonized laboring led to it, vast upheavals of intergalactic space/time split apart, a wrenching and tearing of the very sinews of reality itself. You can only cover your eyes and shudder before it, before this: “God of God, Light of Light, very God of very God . . . who for us and for our salvation,” as the Nicene Creed puts it, “came down from heaven.”

Came down. Only then do we dare uncover our eyes and see what we can see. It is the Resurrection and the Life she holds in her arms. It is the bitterness of death he takes at her breast.

-Frederick Buechner “Whistling in the Dark

So, today, if you have been side-tracked from the deep reality of Christmas, let it strike you once again. If you, like me, have hit a bump in your Advent pursuit it is okay. We still have two weeks to dwell with this reality. Sit and dwell with the reality that it is the Resurrection and the Life she holds in her hands. It is not tame. So much in this passage to think on.

Regroup. Take a deep breath. Allow your kids the wonder of the season and remind them again and again and again that God became one of us and that is the truest wonder of it all. As we remind them of that, and think on the deep reality of God made flesh…the wonder begins to infuse everything again.

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