Being prepared is never easy, especially when it comes to children. Before our boys were born we did everything to prepare for their arrival only to have all of them arrive 7+ weeks prior to their “due dates.”
Now that they’re here it feels like everything we do requires preparation. Daily routines are filled with preparation. From meals to baths and bed, preparation is required in order to maintain some semblance of order in our lives. A day at the zoo requires a solid hour of additional preparation in order to have a chance at a successful trip. Speaking of trips, going out of town feels like we’re planning for an expedition into the furthest reaches of the North Pole. To take a journey with a baby, one needs to get ready.
It should come as no surprise that we begin our church year anew with a season of preparation, Advent. The early church recognized the need for preparation when it comes to welcoming a baby into our lives. How much bigger the preparation when the child happens to be the long-awaited Messiah?!?
We set aside four weeks to get ourselves truly prepared for this event. In our homes we buy calendars with hidden treats to make the wait that much more palatable. (Last year the Wagner House celebrated the season with a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Mega Blocks Advent calendar!) At church we light candles and listen to stories about everything from the prophets and the Holy Family to shepherds and magi from a distant land. Waiting and preparing is not easy work and so we engage these traditions and faith actions to make the experience that much more palatable.
The challenge I find within myself this time of year is that I allow myself to get swept up in other seasonal preparations. Instead listening to the prophetic voices draw attention to the coming child, I grow quickly tired of the voices on my radio singing endlessly about a “Holly, Jolly Christmas” the moment Halloween ends. Instead of traveling with the Holy Family as they prepare for the event of Jesus’ birth, I’m swept away in the chaos of establishing travel plans for my family. Yearly I curse the practice of putting lights on the tree and house, instead of stopping to watch the light in the sky above the shepherds and their fields. Most importantly, I forget about the royal gifts of the shepherds thoughtfully given to the Christ-child as I get lost in trying to treat friends and family like royalty through the gifts I give as a result of endless and stressful shopping. WHEW!
I have come to realize that I get so wrapped up preparing for Christmas that I often miss the joy and quiet of preparation experienced in the season of Advent. This year I invite you to share with me in the Advent practices of preparation in your home and at church. To share in the stories and experiences that make the joy of Jesus’ birth a “Joy to the (Entire) World”! When it comes to children we’re never fully prepared, but that doesn’t mean we can’t try! Have a blessed Advent and a very Merry Christmas!