I startled awake this morning, anxious and uncomfortable.
Almost immediately, I realized part of my discomfort was from a pair of three-year-old feet pressed solidly into the small of my back, kneading my kidneys with ten still-chubby toes.
Also (possibly related to the toes), I needed the bathroom urgently.
Also, I’ve fallen into my usual trap of Advent anxiety.
Last night after a long day of meeting and errands and one particularly awful grocery store trip (in which a woman in the checkout line suggested that I should drink the entire bottle of wine I was purchasing), we put our four overtired children to bed. I sat at my desk and scrolled back through old blog posts, trying to find one about our favorite Christmas books (how do I not have a post about our favorite Christmas books after all these years?), and I had to laugh at myself. So many words about Advent. So many sentences about waiting and not rushing and being present in the moment. So many reassurances about how this is a time of preparation and we don’t have to have all the things ready right now.
I guess I was writing to myself all that time as much as anyone else. I needed to reread my own words.
So this morning, in the waning moments of darkness before the sun creeps up and my children burst forth to find their new slippers stuffed with chocolate coins and clementines and candy canes, here is a reminder from me to you (and from me to me):
Advent is for preparation. It’s a whole season in which to prepare for the Incarnation…an event large enough that we need weeks to get ready for it- not just once, but every single year. Even Mary, the mother of the Word made flesh, needed time to prepare for Jesus, leading Him to spend the first nine months of His life as a human being waiting silently in her womb. He was gestating. He was preparing, too, as His body was being woven together in the sanctuary of His mother. I can’t even get my mind to wrap around that truth.
And that’s okay, because it’s Advent, and I have time to wonder over it. It is a mystery worth all the wonder I can muster in the coming days and weeks.
As we prepare our hearts, it is perfectly fine to also be preparing our everyday lives for the celebration that is coming. It’s okay to use Advent to clear our countertops while we ponder what it means to clean our hearts. It’s okay to use Advent to spruce up our front porches while we contemplate what sort of outward expressions of Christian joy we’re sharing with the world. It’s okay to use Advent to choose and wrap gifts for those we love as we consider the great Gift that came to each of us over two thousand years ago.
It’s okay to not be ready yet. It’s okay, because Advent is for getting ready, and getting ready is what what we are supposed to be doing right now.
But Advent is more than that, too. It’s an invitation to take advantage of the time we have to join Mary in pondering all these things in our hearts. The Incarnation is a mystery that never gets smaller. It’s never any less amazing. There is plenty of material there for thinking and praying and meditating on for a lifetime.
So stop worrying about not being ready, and go get ready. Get Adventing. Tell me what you’re doing to get ready. While you bake things (if you do that) and wrap things and arrange things, take a few minutes to ponder why we do this and what it all means. And if you are one of those amazing people who is already ready for Christmas before Advent begins, I salute you and would like you to write a guest post for me next year around October so that you can share your wisdom and best tips with the rest of us, because I could clearly use some help in that department.