I look forward to Advent out of sheer desperation each and every year.
Between the weariness of the fall schedule’s hustle and the onset of darker, colder days, my overwhelmed mind and heart teeter on the edge of instability and despair. Two of our kids have birthdays in November and we never seem to get it quite right. And so December rolls around and we are typically overspent, overtired, and overrun.
But this year is all of that and then some. I started a tiny business to help meet our family’s needs and expand the blog just a bit. Our house is on the market. I’m sharing at an event this week and as soon as I said yes to that, life began unraveling in the places that are most bedrock and also most vulnerable. Heaviest of all, I lost a dear friend three weeks ago.
My Advent books are tucked away in the recesses of our garage. I packed up nearly all of the books in August, fully anticipating that our house might be sold by now. It’s December and we’re still here, minus the books. And that’s okay, truly it is. I’m simply missing the books I’d looked forward to this December, readings that ready my heart and my family’s hearts for a season that’s about receiving the Christ.
Nothing feels ready.
As I scrawl out this post, my hands are shaky and tears float just beneath the surface. The laundry mocks me in all of its unwashed glory and the bills stare back at me from the stack. The kitchen is proof of a family well-fed this week and also of a mom too tired to tackle the clean-up. The children are extra entitled and the husband and I cling to one another and our fragile union with the hope that only Jesus can offer.
And so yesterday I sat in church, grateful for the deep means of grace and nourishment that the Lord’s Days provides, and acutely aware that this is really the best place to be in the first week of Advent — needy, desperate, wholly unable to be my own savior or anyone else’s. And surrounded by others who know they are needy and desperate too.
How else can we receive the Christ?
Lofty Kings either ignored him or wanted to have him killed, lest his glory threaten their own.
The puffed-up religious crowd — blinded by their own expectation — overlooked a Baby King.
But the lowly shepherds, the pregnant girl, the weary travelers — the needy of his day — they came and bowed and believed.
If your life feels less than prepared, less than together, less than picture-perfect, consider it a gift as you enter the Advent season with your baggage and your burned-out state.
Jesus didn’t come for the righteous or the proud or the self-sufficient. He came for the ones who needing Rescuing with a capital R. He came for the weary. He came for sinners. He came for the obnoxiously needy. He came for the ones who are mired in shame and regret.
He came as a helpless baby, the most humble state imaginable, so that He might identify with us — helpless mankind. And just as He came to us in quiet, obscure humility, He invites us to come to him in the same way.
It is our desperation for Him that readies our hearts to receive Him.
Today, on this first Monday of Advent, might we bow together in our neediness?
Jesus, forgive us for our preoccupation with self. Forgive us for obsessing about our togetherness or lack thereof. Forgive us for focusing first and foremost on the sins and shortcomings of others instead of the pitiful state of our hearts.
Show us when we lose our way and remind us that you are the only true way.
Thank you that you came to us in the opposite way that God “should” arrive on the scene. Thank you that you came without riches and a resumé, though you had both at your disposal. Thank you that you first welcomed the unlikeliest of worshippers instead of the VIPs.
Remind us that you are no stranger to mess, that you were born to a teenage girl and placed in a manger, a bed not gilded with gold and gemstones but lined with hay and the stench of refuse. You left the glory of your true home to make your home among us, a messy and terribly needy people. And because of your life, death, and resurrection, you now make your home in us.
This truth seems to good to be true! Help us to believe anyway. And in our refreshed belief, may we come to you again and again throughout this Advent season. Keep us bowed low. Keep us in wonder. Keep us always in worship.
No matter our mess, our grief, or our lack, may we fall down in overflowing gratitude because you, the Savior of the world, came to dwell in us. May we know your presence and your love and may it be so very real. Amen.
And if you’re wondering what books are packed away in the boxes?
Jotham’s Journey: A Storybook for Advent by Arnold Ytreeide
And though not technically an Advent book, The Best Christmas Pageant Ever is a favorite around here every year. It’s such a hilarious and real picture of the Gospel, an “allcomers” message like no other.
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