For those of you who followed our excruciating journey after Ian’s car accident in 2017, this may bring back memories. And you may recognize some of the people and events. As a tribute to EVERYONE (whether you’ve been named or not) who have supported us in some way, THANK YOU. You have made an indelible mark and taught me the true meaning of advent.
Excerpts from my talk…Are you ready?
When you’re asked that question this time of year does it get under your skin like it does me? Let’s be honest, December 25th will come whether we’re ready or not.
Advent, which means “coming”, is actually a time we’re to practice waiting. Doesn’t that sound ridiculous. Are you kidding, who wants to practice waiting? In our culture, we want it now. We get annoyed when Siri doesn’t understand our demanding request and we have to repeat it. No wonder amazon prime is taking over. Same day shipping and it’s free.
Seriously though, Advent is an important part of the church calendar providing us the chance to pause to take it all in. During advent we adore the baby Jesus and His selfless act to take on human flesh. We anticipate His second coming and remember that life here on planet earth isn’t all there is. And finally, it’s our opportunity to re-orient our hearts when we realize that our deepest longings are only met in Him.
Isn’t it ironic that the very traditions we rely on to remember and honor the birth of Jesus can actually undermine His presence in our hearts?
For me, it can feel as if the merriment of the season falls to me to create. In my home, I do the shopping, the decorating, the baking, the Christmas cards, the organizing of holiday travel, and the complex coordination of the family calendar. It is hard to deny… as women we are typically the glue that binds family together. And that can be a lot of pressure. That, I’d suggest is why the question, are you ready can be so sinister.
A different meaning
What if we consider a different meaning to the phrase are you ready? Instead of thinking about being ready for IT, let’s consider being ready for Him.
Thinking back, undeniably my most memorable Christmas was in 2017. We weren’t in our own home, we didn’t decorate a tree, we didn’t do much shopping, no Christmas cards were sent, the stockings we found to hang were narrow long knee socks, we didn’t even attend Doug’s sermon on Christmas Eve. It was all very untypical. But… ironically I was never more ready for Christmas.
This was the advent when Ian moved to Craig rehab hospital in Denver and our whole family had to adjust. What made it so memorable was that I could only receive. My unusual circumstances removed me from DOING to just BEING. And… ready or not Christmas came.
Matthew 1:23 “Look! The virgin will conceive a child! She will give birth to a son, and they will call him Emmanuel, which means ‘God is with us.’”
The preposterous Christmas story
No circumstance is accidental or incidental. No acts are random or wasted. Do you want proof of that truth? Consider the preposterous Christmas story.
Joseph and Mary, two first century pious Jews, were engaged to be married. Mary became pregnant without Joseph’s help, which was a crisis of unbelievable magnitude. A confused and embarrassed Joseph listened to the guidance of an angel and stayed by Mary’s side. Because a census was ordered, Joseph was forced to travel. Mary as round as a bowling ball bounced on a donkey’s back. The Inn had no room. Of course not. They were directed to a pig’s trough. The hour was late. The event was one big hassle. Yet out of the hassle, hope was born.
Emmanuel has come. Jesus entered our world not like a human, but as a human. And because of that, Jesus is NOT out of touch with our reality. He sees you. He knows your situation, even the dark corners of your heart.
During advent 2017, Ian was confined to a wheel chair and lived at Craig rehab hospital. I moved to Denver and lived in an adjacent building with a bed and kitchenette so I could support him. Mysteriously every week a fresh bouquet of flowers arrived outside of my apartment door. (I have never learned who was responsible) Becca was enjoying her sophomore year at college and just happened to be dating a boy whose family lived 5 minutes from the hospital.
Not just any city, Denver
Doug grew up in Denver and it holds a special place in our hearts because it’s where he and I met and began ministry together so long ago. Friends from that era came out of the woodwork to support us. Each Sunday it seemed I got to visit a different church with a different friend.
Ian spent his days with dozens of adults… nurses, doctors, technicians and therapists. But nothing would light up his face quite like a friend his age.
Jennifer, a friend Doug and I knew from our churches singles group 30 years prior has a daughter, about Ian’s age. Catherine has had her share of struggles, born with a rare condition. She has endured many surgeries, but this gave her a level of empathy for Ian beyond what is typical for a twenty something. She attended Colorado Christian and had been praying, but wanted to visit.
Cat did visit Ian. Many times. He loved it. Are you kidding. A pretty college gal taking an interest. Sometimes she would bring her roommate. They would wheel Ian around the hospital listening to their music and taking artsy pictures together.
Heidi and Nate
A Penn State college friend of mine had just relocated with her family, after many years in China on the mission field. When our kids were very young and we both lived in PA, we would get together. It had been over 15 years. Now in Denver, Heidi would make homemade soup and healthy trail mix and leave it in my frig.
Her son was about Ian’s age. Of course they didn’t remember each other, but Nate, now a strong believer, decided to visit Ian consistently.
Nate and Ian discovered they shared an obsession with the show, Stranger Things. Nate would bring his laptop and set up sensor-round speakers, turn out the lights and send me away. After a few weeks, more friends came to ST night, as it became known at Craig.
Nate wanted to take Ian “off campus”. This was no small thing. In the midst of his own finals at Denver University, Nate had to take the required hospital training. He learned what to do in the case of a seizure and how to transfer Ian into and out of a wheelchair. Nate, now qualified, would pick Ian up and together they would meet a gang of friends for pizza. Then together they’d go to young adult worship with Ian, my extroverted ginger, at the center of it all.
These old friends rallied, involved their kids, and picked up where our Albuquerque support left off.
Doug accepted the graciousness of his employer, Sandia Presbyterian, and was able travel to Denver each week for a few days. His travel overlapped with Frontier airlines month long special and amazingly his round trip rarely cost more than 50 dollars.
A friend, Julie Snyder, who used to attend our church had moved to Denver. She mentioned to me that her family was traveling over Christmas and would we want to stay as a family in their wheel chair accessible home, complete with their older loving dog named Mylee.
The face of God
Not one of those details was a coincidence. And I could have written pages more detailing the generosity of the body of Christ. (Krista, Julie, Kathy, Betsy, Leanna, Jennifer, Lynda, Mike and Kimberly) For outsiders looking at our family and our circumstances, things looked sad and bleak. But from the inside, we experienced Emmanuel. We saw the face of God.
It was no coincidence that God chose to use advent to impact our family as He did. The truth is… that advent, due to our unusual circumstances, it was easier to reorient our hearts. Stripped of a typical Christmas, it became obvious.
The carol, O Little Town of Bethlehem, speaks truth.
“The hopes and fears of all the years are met in Thee tonight.”
Advent in a nutshell
That’s it… That’s advent in a nutshell. Not only is Jesus the greatest gift He’s the only gift that can satisfy the deepest longings of our hearts. All the other stuff, is just stuff.
But how do we fully appreciate advent today? Today, when life is more typical, circumstances aren’t dire, and the season still relentlessly demands our energy and attention?
The key is this…
We don’t have to be ready for IT as long as we are ready for HIM. Because ready or not Christmas will come. Christ won’t be critical of our decorations, our cookies or our presents. He would rather just love us, influence us and be included in our merriment. Stressing about being ready is quite silly, because no matter what we do or don’t get done, Christmas will come. Which means Jesus will come again. And when He does, He’ll right every wrong and wipe every tear. And we’ll know without any doubt that our Hopes and Fears of all the Years are met only in Him.
I may never be ready for it… but I’m ready for Him, and I cannot wait! How about you… Are you ready?
Because ready or not, Christmas is coming.