Ornament (Advent #2)

(A repost from the archives)

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There you go running and tossing and breaking and shattering and I gotta tell you, the way I imagined this day to go is just not what it turned out to be. I wait for Christmas Tree day. I imagine us, in the woods with all our friends, sipping hot drinks, eating too many sweets, finding the perfect tree, taking photos in front of it. Instead, and suddenly, chill settles into little fingers, someone has to poop.

I want things to run on rails. This family, I want it to run like a well oiled machine. Pumping out symmetry, clean edges, pictures perfect. I want this night, gathered round the tree, decorations to hang, carols on, me in plaid, in scarf. I want you smiling demurely, hanging the ornaments gentle. I want mistletoe and candle light, but you keep blowing them out.

All my talk about otherwise? I still want our family to look like an ornament. Sparkled and spackled and flawless. And instead, God keeps whispering something about being an instrument: of peace, of reconciliation. He keeps on whispering about how very broken we all are, how he has plans for us this season it is true, but none of those plans involve our perfection. Just His. Made flesh. Because of our brokenness, like the nutcracker I glue back together (sorry Michelle…). He says “That is the point of this thing child. Relax”. Look for the cracks, the fissures, lean into them. Bring that peace on earth, be it.

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I sigh, pull you into my lap and we read quiet and slow and we start our advent readings and you seem to get it. And I do too. The beauty is right here. In your soft skin (because you took off the coordinated outfits I put you in), in the soft glint of Christmas lights I hung (though they are clumped, and cluttered), in the pine boughs on my mantle (that snapped off as we dragged the tree in the door).

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.
Where there is hatred, let me sow love.
Where there is injury, pardon.
Where there is doubt, faith.
Where there is despair, hope.
Where there is darkness, light.
Where there is sadness, joy.
O Divine Master,
grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled, as to console;
to be understood, as to understand;
to be loved, as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive.
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned,
and it is in dying that we are born to Eternal Life.
Amen.-St. Francis of Assisi 
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We Wait…And We Hope (Advent #1)

Mary’s “How can this be?” is a simpler response than Zechariah’s, and also more profound. She does not lose her voice but finds it. Like any of the prophets she asserts herself before God saying, “Here I am”. There is no arrogance, however, but only holy fear and wonder. Mary proceeds – as we must do in life – making her commitment without knowing much about what it will entail or where it will lead. I treasure the story because it forces me to ask: When the mystery of God’s love breaks into my consciousness, do I run from it? Do I ask of it what it cannot anser? Shrugging, do I retreat into facile clichés, the popular but false wisdom of what ‘we all know’? Or am I virgin enough to respond from my deepest, truest self, and say something new, a ‘yes’ that will change me forever?

(This post inspired by a beautiful piece by Kathleen Norris, and especially this quote from “Watch for the Light” p. 44)

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We hop onto the quad, all four of us. We head out into the woods, we find new trails, spot the tracks of rabbits in the stand of birch trees. There are spots on the trail that surprise us, dips in the road, the cold wind whips our faces, all of us turning our faces skyward to the pines, the breeze blowing them and we feel small. We sense the mystery of this place, how anything could be just around the corner, the elk I passed on the highway, the wolf our neighbor spotted, the moose tracks we’ve passed here before. We know this and we chase out anyways; the adventure is in the mystery.

We say yes, even when we don’t know what is before us. We, as the Christmas people, we choose hope OVER fear and we chase the hope bringer down paths uncharted. We  trust Him enough with our lives that we say YES even when we are unsure what we are accepting.

This is the season we think about Mary, “let it be to me as you have said“. Without any assurance of what is to come. Even if the path before us is unmarked. Even when we are uncertain of what we are saying yes too, we go.

This first Sunday of Advent is named HOPE. We are the hope people. We are the ones waiting what is to come. We step into and wait on the mystery of the God incarnate. We don’t understand it all. We join in the mystery anyways. We become HOPE to the dark world. We walk in the mystery and we say YES to the things of God.  We choose the adventure of life in Christ over the stagnancy of life unmoved. We choose the HOPE of the world over the anaesthetic that so many of our generation choose. We let that hope infiltrate us and change us. We push that hope past our usual boundaries into the dark spaces. This advent we wear that hope like a merit badge…despite how foolish we may seem.

This month, this advent, we move into the mystery of Christ, and we plan to say YES every time. We plan to choose hope every day, believing that,

“He begs us to spend the attention of Advent on the little, the least, the lonely, the lost.” –Ann Voskamp

We are the hope people. Tell me how you hope?