I love Advent. I love everything about this time of grace. It is a thought-provoking, layered season when a family remembers that it is holy, or at the very least, wants to be.
The night of Christ’s birth holds every possible intrigue. It is a storyteller’s delight. Year after year we tell and retell these themes of journeying, wonder, mystery and promise. We look into the bright eyes of our children, snuggled in new pajamas around the hearth, and whisper of cold mangers, wise shepherds, angels and silent midnights that hold only peace.
As an adult I have grown to treasure Advent’s grand reminder of the nature of HOPE. That God does unimaginable work with unlikely beginnings and difficult situations. His elaborate plan of salvation began with the creation of a family in precarious circumstances. A frightened young, pregnant girl with an entire village looking at her askance, an older husband who is not so sure about the whole thing (certainly not used to having angels tell him what to do while he is busy dreaming), and a birthplace that was far from home and extraordinarily unsanitary.
I sometime imagine a chummy angel leaning over to Mary during one of her 3:00 AM feedings and whispering in her ear things like “…just a reminder that this IS the Son of God, don’t make any parenting mistakes as the salvation of the entire world is at stake (no pressure or anything). Oh, and the family business? He won’t be taking that over. Your baby will become the greatest revolutionary of all times so don’t be surprised when the empire turns against you after you are forced to watch your sweet boy die the death of a common criminal.”
The holiest of families didn’t have it easy. Not by a long shot. So why is it that we think we should? Their hardships remind me that God does not live on Easy Street. That is not where we will witness His great power. Rather, He lives on Damn This Is Hard Avenue. Difficulties push us from our safe havens to seek answers. Pain calls us to wander down that unexplored, often scary, side of town knocking on doors we never would have chosen. How surprised we are when we find Him in the unlikeliest of places.
He is tricky like that. A king disguised as a baby leads me to open myself to the thought that other miraculous contradictions await if we slow down to consider the nature of HOPE. If we embrace the notion that God offers possibility when there is no evidence present. To see that sometimes beginnings are disguised as endings.
Advent reminds me to choose Hope as a way of life. To pull my family close and recognize our sanctity in good times and in bad times. That God uses our joys to strengthen our love, and He uses our sorrows as teachable moments that draw us close to Him and to each other.
The life of a holy family is not always an easy one, but it is the Christmas Story, the one so many of us seek. May God bless us all as we tackle the challenges inherent to family life in this season and every season. As a mother with children off to college and life beyond, I look forward to December 24th, when, God willing, we will sit as a family, perhaps visited by friends and sung to by angels, on a midnight that holds only peace.