Tonight I shoved Advent into our night. And I failed. Because Advent can’t be shoved. Advent comes gently, quietly. Advent is humble. It comes in a whisper.
The Lord said, “Go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the Lord, for the Lord is about to pass by.”
Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. After the earthquake came a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper. When Elijah heard it, he pulled his cloak over his face and went out and stood at the mouth of the cave.
~ I Kings 19:11-13
The Lord came in a whisper. To Elijah on Mount Horeb, the mountaintop of God–and thousands of years later, to the world in an obscure stable in Bethlehem. I need to learn this whisper. I need to learn to whisper.
Like all of us, our family has been particularly busy these past weeks. A wonderful weekend out of town kept us from worshiping with our church last Sunday and from celebrating the second Sunday of Advent together as a family that evening. Husband was away on business the week following our trip, and thus it was just the kids and I trying to stay above water, juggling schedules and meanwhile trying to fit in Advent. Well, Advent didn’t happen. Not once. Oh, the kids diligently opened their daily surprise treats with great enthusiasm of course, but there were no readings about joy, keeping awake, following God’s path, or light overshadowing the darkness.
So tonight, following a hurried day that began with an early delivery of Christmas gifts to an at-risk family, shuttling to and from a birthday party, then flying straight to Pageant rehearsal and eventually back home, we rushed out as a family to procure the treasured Christmas tree a week later than we normally would. Then finally… back home for dinner. (Carry-out of course. Because WE ARE OH-SO-BUSY, AREN’T WE ALL, in this season of expectation.)
So it was during the first sit-down dinner in over a week that I had the determination (come Hell or high water, ironically) to “do Advent”. But what I forgot was that Advent doesn’t need “do-ing”. It has already been DONE FOR US. Regardless, I led us into the procedure of “doing Advent”. I read the opening about preparing for the light that was coming into the world– and the importance of letting that light shine through us. Louisa lit the candle, I read from Luke, and Charlie said a prayer. All was going as I had “prepared”.
It was now time for ‘discussion’, and I began with a series of questions. That’s when Henry gets up from the table (unexcused) to go pick purple sumac out of his teeth from the rice he had for dinner. Two minutes later, Louisa gets up and walks into the kitchen (also unexcused) to most likely text or pop onto Instagram. And this is when I lost it and started crying. Yes, crying. Crying at the Advent table. Not because I was overjoyed with a full and prepared heart bursting forth light, but because I was failing at shoving Advent down the family tree. This led to raised voices, blame, reprimands for being disrespectful…and more tears from me. This was anything but the WHISPER that I needed to hear… and needed to give.
We managed to make it through the rest of Advent dinner — because after all, there was no time to lose. In a few hours we will need to “do Advent” again, since we were six days late doing Advent this week. So much for “preparation”. But this time we will be lighting the Love candle… and I believe that Love wins in the end.
And since it is Advent after all, I will close with moments from tonight where Beauty did reign In The Messy. And in a small, small way, it is a bit like how the beautiful Prince of Peace reigned in a messy stable so long ago…
“Comfort, comfort my people, says your God.”
Listen for the Whisper… I know I will.