Advent has begun once again. We have returned from our Thanksgiving travels, and the Christmas lights are twinkling throughout the house. I have retrieved my Advent devotionals from their spot on the highest shelf in our bookcase, and here I sit once again pondering the meaning of Advent.

Longing. Waiting. Expectation. Mystery.

The words of Advent sometimes feel awkward and uncomfortable in our hurried, instant gratification world. With Siri at the ready to answer any question with the push of a button and Amazon available to deliver almost anything to our doorstep overnight, we are disgruntled when we are made to wait.In our take charge, get ‘er done, easy answer society, waiting is a problem to be solved, not an invitation to be still.

Let’s do this thing called Christmas! Ready, set, go!

When my daughters were younger, I remember the arrival of December sometimes evoking a sense of trepidation and anxiety. I wanted their Christmas season to be perfect! Pinterest wasn’t around when my children were little (thank you, Jesus!), but the pressure was still real to make their Christmas magical, meaningful and memorable. Every year, I had big plans for Advent wreath devotionals and Hallmark-worthy cookie baking sessions as part of the exciting and spiritually meaningful countdown to Christmas morning magic. Each step, of course, would be beautifully and carefully orchestrated by their Christmas-sweater-wearing, Advent-devotional-reading, “Jesus is the reason for the season” reminding, Christmas-treat-baking, holiday-party-throwing, Christmas-pageant-organizing, charity-food-basket-delivering, sparkly-light-hanging, calm, cool and spiritually mature mother.

The problem was I seemed to be the only mom available.

Each year, I set myself up with expectations for orchestrating the “perfect” Christmas for me and my family. Then, because it didn’t quite happen the way I planned, I was left with a vague sense of discontent on the 26th, a feeling I somehow missed it.

Here is the good news for all of you moms out there with your heart pounding as the realization of December’s arrival sets in. I never once delivered a “perfect” Christmas for my children, and yet they both still love Christmas. They experience Jesus as the reason for the season, even though we never consistently pulled off the Advent wreath devotionals. Like all aspects of their childhood, God took my messy, mixed motives and my clumsy attempts at faithfulness and created something beautiful and holy. Perfectly imperfect and, like the loaves and fish of long ago, just enough.

At twenty and twenty-two, my daughters still cherish the Christmas traditions we began when they were tiny. Now that my house is quieter, I treasure the times in December when I have the opportunity to experience a few moments of quiet reflection. In the stillness, I am coming to understand that my expectations of a “perfect” Christmas experience always put the focus back on me, instead of God.

Am I attempting to orchestrate, manufacture or invoke my version of a perfect Christmas moment? Am I trying to “birth” Christ in me through my own busyness, my own preparations, my own efforts?

I am beginning to believe God doesn’t need me to orchestrate the message he has for me or my family this Christmas. God has a plan for which he doesn’t need my help. My part is to grab those quiet moments when I can but also to realize that God is equally present in those wilder, louder, crazier, busier moments. I need to show up, fully present, in each moment of my life this December knowing God is already there.

What if we prayerfully remain open and surrendered to the serendipitous gifts of presence we may experience through no efforts of our own? What if we let go of our expectations of how we should “do” Christmas and expectantly wait for God to show us how he “does” Christmas?

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