Week 3: Why You Really Are Prepared for Christmas. Even if You’re Not.

advent 3

It will be a Christmas memory for the archives. All five of us, on December 13th — just two weeks behind schedule — traipsing through the Lowe’s parking lot to find our family tree.

It was a soul-sucking vignette, to be sure. Megastore garden center at night. Vacant cinder-block stalls, emptied of the best trees. Bad fluorescent lighting that reflected off the cement and handed me a shot glass of depression. The whole scene felt a bit like prison.

2014 — The Year The Vischers Bailed Out a Christmas Tree

One child stood in the corner, arms folded and scowling and I can’t believe this is the tree we’re getting!

The other two pushed each other around on the flatbed metal carts because their mom was too melancholy to care. And my husband, God bless him, channeled his inner Clark Griswold and assured his disgruntled family that this was indeed a fine tree and that we were going to have a hap-hap-happiest Christmas after all.

We drove out of the parking lot as the kids complained about our small-statured tree and how we’re putting it up late this year and why aren’t there lights on our house and so on.

I simply stared out the window in silence. As we drove home, my husband asked me what our schedule looked like this week and when no answer came, he looked over and saw tears rolling down my cheeks. Of course he asked what was wrong and all I could get out was, I’m just overwhelmed.

We didn’t realize until recent weeks that the last half of 2014 was tougher than we’d acknowledged, an extended season of physical, emotional, spiritual, and relational stress that gradually seeped in without fanfare or acknowledgement. Sometimes we’re so busy putting out the fires and making the decisions and dealing with the issues at hand that we don’t realize we’re actually drowning. The waters have risen, ever so slowly, and we find ourselves gasping for breath.

Or in my case, crying on the way home from Lowe’s and telling my husband that for the first time ever, I wish we could just skip Christmas.

And then there’s the guilt. December 13th and no Christmas decorations. No advent readings {because the books are packed up in boxes} and therefore no hearts “prepared.” No intentional memory-making endeavors like gingerbread houses and Christmas lights and tree farms and putting on the ornaments while we pass the hot chocolate.

JOY

For the mom who’s overwhelmed by her stress, her lack, her distraction, her loser-ness, there is only one answer.

To be overwhelmed by grace through Christ. 

I can look at the expectations, overwhelmed by how I’m coming up short. Or I can look at Jesus, overwhelmed by his sufficiency.

I can look at the all the moms getting it “right,” overwhelmed by my pitiful comparison. Or I can look at Jesus, overwhelmed by his favor for me.

I can look at my kids’ expectations, overwhelmed in a torrent of guilt. Or I can look at Jesus, overwhelmed because there is no condemnation for those who are in Him.

In far too many moments, I’ve been looking in the wrong places for approval, affirmation, and joy. And I should know my now — that always leaves me gasping for air, emotionally bankrupt, and reeking of self-focus.

Why are we so prone to define ourselves by what we’re doing {or not doing} instead of what Jesus has already done?

It’s been a December in which I’ve been ambushed by my culture’s expectations, others’ expectations, and my own expectations instead of overwhelmed by the simple yet profound truth of the Gospel.

But it’s only December 15th. And I’d love a do-over. I long to shift my gaze.

Because even if the tree never went up and the cookies never got made and the advent readings never got read, Christmas would still come because Christ still comes.

And when He showed up on the scene over 2,000 years ago, no one was prepared, not even his own family. There was no matching layette, no birth plan, no carefully prepared suite, not even a room at the inn.

Do we think Christ’s humble beginnings were a result of poor planning or just happenstance? Do we criticize Mary for not having it just a little more together, seeing as how she was getting ready to birth the Savior of the World?

Of course we don’t.

Because God isn’t a God of coincidence, the world’s unpreparedness was no coincidence.

If your own Christmas preparations feel behind, pitiful, or less than enthusiastic, you’re in good company.

Christ came to the unprepared, the unlikely, and the unsuspecting. And He didn’t show up with a checklist. He showed up with compassion.

On this third week of Advent, know that it’s never too late for your heart to “prepare Him room.”

And though He is God in the flesh, though his glory is beyond our comprehension, He is the most gracious guest for whom we’ll ever prepare. He’s not impressed by lights or tinsel or even our intentionality as parents. He doesn’t require garland or even a Christmas tree by December 1st.

He simply asks that we receive Him — just as we are, just as He finds us.

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WEEK 1

Advent week 1 300

WEEK 2

advent week 2 300

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Comments

  1. Mom says

    Just finished “assembling” (how real can that be?) our tree here in the early afternoon of 12/15. Then got ready to paint a bit of exterior window trim, because that’s how we roll here. Tree assembly. Break. Paint. Break. Hang some ornaments…maybe. Tape a mirror for painting. Look for yummy leftovers so there could just possibly be an evening meal. Hang another few ornaments. Lots of “preparation” going on of new home/Christmas decorations …and then I sit and glance and there’s your post.

    And once again I am reminded (painfully so, if I’m honest) of the heart preparation that I too-often neglect. Thank you, dear daughter, for the reminder.

    And then a random thought of levity: we are often overwhelmed; and sometimes underwhelmed. Is it ever possible to find the balance, and just be whelmed? Is that even a word?

    LYF

    • Marian says

      “Whelmed” is a word if we say it is. : ) And so funny but I just used these two opposites during my Bible study discussion this past week as we talked about the glory of God. How when we get a glimpse of his glory, we are overwhelmed by all that He is and underwhelmed with ourselves {in all the right ways.}

      But yes, we’re also far too easily satisfied and underwhelmed by the Gospel…when really it’s everything!

  2. Renee says

    The good news of the gospel keeps getting better and better.!
    This was pure grace my heart needed as I’ve been looking at the next two weeks on my calendar as hurdles I need to jump just to keep all those plates spinning. The gospel. (and amazon prime because I can only do one thing at a time and right now it’s birthday planning for a precious turning-three-year old, then Christmas, then a wedding reception for a friend)

    • Marian says

      Renee, that is a LOT! Perhaps the Velvet Eden blazer coming your way will make the plate-spinning a bit easier…or at least you’ll feel prettier as you spin them. : )

      Hoping for joy and grace {and strength} by the bucketfuls for you and yours this season!

  3. says

    It’s funny because this year is the first year in several that I’ve actually looked forward to Christmas. For in the past years Christmas has meant that there were far too few days left to spend with my husband and baby. It’s not that I wanted Christmas to be over, it’s that I didn’t want it to come. My greatest prayer last Christmas {just days after finding out I was preggo with #2} was that I would be able to stay home with my kids. Here I am – living the prayer that God faithfully answered. I’ve done far more heart preparing than home preparing this year {our tree was up for 3 days before it was decorated just yesterday} – but it’s still so easy to center the wrong things in my heart {ahem, to flip out because I haven’t bought one.single.gift.}.

    “Because even if the tree never went up and the cookies never got made and the advent readings never got read, Christmas would still come because Christ still comes.” Thank you for these words. Christ still comes. I needed this reminder today.

  4. says

    I needed this. I can only say thank you because the tears are blurring the rest. Thank you. You have no idea.

    Hugs to you this season, and may we rest in Christ’s enough-ness.

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  1. […] Week 3: Why You Really Are Prepared for Christmas. Even if You’re Not. Because even if the tree never went up and the cookies never got made and the advent readings never got read, Christmas would still come because Christ still comes. […]

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