Advent, a time of preparation. It started a little early at our house this year AND it was a baby we were waiting for.
When I read the Christmas story I don’t often think about all the work that goes into bringing a new life into the world. I just think about the picture of a sweet baby in a warm manger. I guess that’s what hearing a story or songs over and over does, but I’ve had my infant refresher course for the year. There was a lot of getting ready that got done at our house. We had to move furniture, paint, get more baby stuff, get more little diapers (you quickly forget how small those things are), pack bags for the trip to the hospital . . . and wait. Your life goes on hold when you’re waiting for a baby. (Somebody once told me that there are few things in life that you have less of a say in than what your birthday will be.) We got it all done and then waited and waited some more. We got up early and watched the leonid meteor shower in the morning. We went to our church’s thanksgiving dinner and had a great time. We stayed for the cleaning up of the gym and then went home. Within a few hours, we knew it was time to head to the hospital. So we called Max’s designated sitters for the few days we’d be out, and off we went.
It’s an incredible experience to be in that room–my best count is that there were five of us there–and then there were six of us there. The other thing that’s incredible to me is that we each arrived like that: there was a room with people in it…and all of a sudden there was one more. Zach had his weighing in and warming up and breathing exercises. Then I watched this new life lay on a warming table and take in his new world for the first time.
Back to the Christmas story. It’s pretty easy to forget that against the backdrop of that often-told story, a young couple goes through all the emotions, fears and hopes that we do. Setting out on a donkey with a pregnant wife and no hotel reservations is not the way they teach you to handle travels during those last few days of pregnancy. We were told to keep our cars full of gas, but the story doesn’t tell us many details about the preparations that young couple made. It’s incredible that God chooses to enter their story (and our stories) the way all the rest of us make our entry. God shows up through the same vulnerable, incredible, dangerous, exciting birth experience through which we have all arrived.
Part of what I love about this season is that the story happens for us on two levels, past and present. When we celebrate Christmas, there are 2 births we turn our attention toward. The one in the past and the birth of new life in our present. The one in the past is that story we’re all so familiar with. (My favorite rendition is Linus’ story from the Peanuts.) The present story is about the birth (and rebirth) of Christ in our lives.
The challenge I throw out for you this advent is to remember that you’re planning for a birth in your life this season. Consider doing something specific this advent to help you celebrate the present arrival of Christmas in your life. Celebrating the original Christmas is the easy one–it’s all around us. The other birth is the quieter one. It comes as a whisper, but it’s one that deserves just as much preparation. So pack your bags, buy your diapers and wet wipes, get ready and wait to be surprised again.
Have a Merry Christmas, — Ron
ps. I’ve got to share this. We’ve got this wooden cut out nativity set. It’s 3 very simple pieces: Mary Joseph and the baby Jesus in the manger. It’s painted really simply so if you’re not familiar with the story, you might not even recognize the pieces as people. So Max at all of 19 months, notices that the virgin Mary is shaped like his T-rex bath toy (and he’s right–it is). He goes around the house making growling sounds and waving Mary at you. I wish you could see it. I guess we experience Christmas (& life) where we are and this’ll probably be Max’s only Mary/T-rex year. So we’ll enjoy it while we have it . . . and we’ve got some ‘splainin’ to do.