Tumbling in the Sand
I kind of missed Advent this year. There was no Advent wreath at my house, no Advent calendar to mark the days. I did not even get to center my days around the Sundays of Advent: watching the acolyte struggle to light the next candle and sing all the beautiful hymns of longing for light, for new creation, for the coming of God into the world.
Nope. Instead my days of Advent were counted off this year with dose packs of steroids and dose counters on inhalers. I didn’t count down days as much as I counted down the number of antibiotic tablets I had yet to take and the hours between coughing attacks. I didn’t so much get to gather worshipfully with a community longing and waiting for God as much as I got to sit as patiently as I could with strangers gathered—also waiting and longing but at the doctors office hoping for some relief from sickness.
And all of a sudden, it’s Christmas. My administrative assistant wants to run the Christmas bulletin tomorrow and I’m supposed to be in a place to put in the finishing touches. But, wait … what?
What happened to the candles and the longing and the season of blue?
I feel a tad ill-prepared for this whole incarnation of God thing that we are supposed to be celebrating next week. I have no sermons, no sense of where the Spirit might be leading, no fresh grounding in the faith story. Now, honestly, there is a big part of me that realizes that I will be happy if I can make it through the coming services without dissolving into a coughing fit … but wait … what about all the hype around the Holy Night? What about finding the right words for the sermon or making sure that everything is right and ready? What about proper advertising so that everyone knows that they can come? What about … what about … what about … ?
I’m really ill-prepared this year … And yet, I’m beginning to wonder, aren’t we always?
I’m Facebook friends with a bunch of pastoral colleagues who I have been sort of watching running around frantically to make this season just perfect (and don’t get me wrong—I’m not criticizing them, I’d be doing the same thing if I were at all able … actually, I’m a little envious of their busy-ness and work this season) but I find myself wondering: are we ever prepared for the coming of God? Do we ever get it right when God shows up? Or does God show up anyway?
And is that the point? Is the point that more people have Advents like mine this year than they do ones filled with careful planning and waiting and preparation? Is the point that most of the people doing last minute shopping for Christmas gifts aren’t so much procrastinators as people caught off guard that it’s already Christmas … wait, what?
Is the point that the world isn’t ready, is never ready for Christ’s mass? For the coming of God as a baby? And yet, God still comes … God still comes even when there are mistakes in the bulletins or the trees aren’t perfect or the person playing Mary in the live nativity gets sick or the pastor is still coughing or attendance is low or there is no room in the inn and all that’s left is the animal feed trough … God still comes and catches us off guard, ill prepared as we are — frantic, tired, and frazzled — and invites us to kneel a moment in the straw.