Sunday, December 6, 2015

what are we cleaning for?

The week before we hosted Thanksgiving my husband decided to tackle and clean out our basement.  Because that is where we were going to be eating our formal family turkey dinner.
Not really.

The day of my daughter's fourth birthday party my husband decided to tackle and clean out the coat closet.   Because that is where we would be serving the pizza and cake.
Not really.

It makes zero sense to me.
This idea of cleaning out a space that people are not even going to see.  A space that nobody is going to spend time in.  A space, that given the occasion we are preparing for, is really of no value.

Now, the basement looks amazing, and I am so glad he took charge of it.
And that hall closet did need some weeding out.
I am grateful for his work, it just seems to come at the most unusual, unnecessary, and stressful times.

But we do this during the holidays, don't we?
We know we should be cleaning out something...
we just forget what it is of value that truly desires our attention.
We might even forget what we are cleaning for.

We light the second Advent candle today, and by we I mean everyone else because we have yet to buy the candles.  The wreath is out.  Just no candles.  I am also staring at two large pumpkins from Halloween in the living room.  Maybe I can paint them purple and light them?  But I digress.  Here we are, candles or no candles, preparing the way for Jesus.  He is coming no matter what. And so we are preparing the best we can.

But are we?

This beautiful time of year is a struggle for me. A real struggle.  Make way, prepare a space, clean up and clean out, leave room, make straight the path...but don't forget to also go shopping, hang the lights, bake the cookies, wrap the gifts, send the cards, make the gingerbread houses, clean the house, host the parties, go to the parties, buy the dinner, buy the Christmas clothes, make sure the kids match, take that photo with Santa, go to the tree lighting, sing the carols...and post it all on Instagram.  It all feels a little bit like cleaning the basement or emptying the closet.  Sure, we are making room...sure, we are tackling and cleaning out...sure we are spending buckets of money we do not even have.  And for what?  Or better yet...for whom???

Jesus was born in a stable.
I keep repeating that to myself.
Jesus was born in a stable.
And he came to give.
Not to receive.

The stress of this world and what it makes Christmas out to be is nearly impossible for  me to ignore.
It keeps me up at night.
The lists the kids make.
Gone are the days of dollies and blocks.
Technology has taken over.
They are asking for things that they will not receive.
They are asking for things we can not provide.
I think back to Jesus on the mountain with the hungry crowd and barely any food and the disciples telling him, "We do not have enough bread to feed  them."

I do not have enough bread to feed my family, either.
Not by the worlds standards, at least.
Not by my children's earthly expectations.
But if I can avoid falling into the trap of comparison and what the world considers a wonderful Christmas, and if I remember to give thanks for the little I have, God will supply enough.  He always does.  In fact, he will give me more than I need. Will it be what my children want?  Probably not.  Not now, at least.  And in my perfect world, they will arise on Christmas morn with joy and thanksgiving and not even care about what is under the tree because Jesus Christ their Savior is born and that is gift enough!  And they will wrap their arms around me shouting, "Oh mama! This is is the best Christmas ever!" Then they will scoop up the one small gift they have been given and beg me to run them down to the nearest orphanage so they can give their gift to a child more deserving!

And well, yeah. That will not happen.  Remember the year my oldest asked for a violent video game and got a high quality backpack instead?  Because I do.  It wasn't pretty.

I went to confession yesterday and dumped this all on my sweet little priest from India who grew up with many brothers and sisters, and no electricity and shares that the most joyful times in his childhood was when the family sat outside under the stars together.  What must he think of me?  Of this rich, entitled town I live in? He promises me that the greatest gift a parent can receive is seeing their children understanding what Christmas really means.  And I do not doubt that. But man, that feels like a really tall order.

Jesus was born in a stable.
And he came to give.
Not to receive.
And he isn't coming to see my basement or closets, and he doesn't care if I send cards or not.
He is coming to dwell in my heart.
He is coming to fill up my soul.
And that is what needs cleaning.
That is the space I should tackle and clean out.

This Advent Sunday, as you light your purple candle, and I light my pumpkin, let us pray that we choose to make straight the path that matters.  Let us fill the valleys and lower the mountains and give all that we have, a little or a lot, to the newborn King we are joyfully waiting to receive.  Let us remember what is of true value, and teach our children the same.  Let us kneel beside Mary, our knees in the dirt and the hay, and let us peer into and over the manger, seeing the newborn in all his humility, taking in the miracle of this tiny perfect and poor baby, this King who has come to give, not to receive, the babe that has come to save the world.