Our advent experiment has been interesting if nothing else. We have been trying to focus less on the commercial and the hype and more on the spiritual. We have had some wonderful moments of worship, wonderful devotional time as we trace the history of God's redemptive plan through the Old Testament, wonderful family time and some great opportunities to serve. But lest we paint this rosy picture and make it seem like we have it all together and that it has been a wonderfully deep and spiritual season of our lives, here are some moments of reality check:
First, there was our sidewalk chalk experiment. There are a number of buses that stop right across the street from our house so we thought that would be a great place to write out a part of the Christmas story from Luke's gospel on the sidewalk in chalk. We planned and planned. We planned which verses would be written by whom and on how many sidewalk blocks etc. We planned which direction to write it in so that it could be read as you walk down the sidewalk...or so we thought. We rushed out of the house, not considering how cold it was and without dressing appropriately. When we got to the spot we quickly realized we did not all have the same picture as to how it was to be laid out. So confusion and cold led quickly to bickering and complaining. Not quite the Christmas spirit and witness we were hoping for!
My favourite moment however, came last Thursday when we were to spend some family moments decorating the tree. We do this as a family and we unwrap ornaments that had been carefully stored form the year before and share the story about the year we got it and to and from whom it was given. We take turns hanging them one by one. As it seems to go theses days, we were stealing these few minutes together in the midst of a pretty busy day. Our weekly home church and band practice was to be starting soon and so dinner was in the oven. I was slipping away every once in a while to prepare the meal while we decorated the tree. Things were going well and it was a beautiful scene. The family gathered around the tree, the warm glow of the Christmas lights, Bing Crosby singing "O Come All Ye Faithful" playing softly in the background and stories of Christmases past being told to the children...when...the door to the stove was opened...and an overly sensitive smoke detector started to blare its ear piercing siren! As I stood there in the kitchen I saw the most amazing sight. The living room scene just carried on as if nothing was happening with the sole exception that a few of the kids had fingers in their ears. What a crazy juxtaposition of the cozy and the cacophonous, the family and the frenzy, the serene and the surreal. It really was our own Christmas Vacation moment being lived out in front of my eyes.
In some ways that sums up our experiment so far. In some ways that sums up our life!
I am brought back to a recurring theme to me this Christmas as I reflect on what that first Christmas must have been like. It too was not a perfect and serene moment despite how we might like to see it. This amazingly special moment in time, when heaven and earth would connect in the form of a child upon which the future of the world would be hung, came down to child birth in a barn. A crazy world whirred around them, so full there was no room for them to lodge and so crazy that most of the world missed it. In the midst of that craziness were some shepherds who heard from the angels, and a young girls who "pondered these things in her heart." A moment of peace and reflection in the midst of the chaos. Is that not the serene in the surreal?
So there you have it. Two reality check moments in our advent experiment.