Failing at Advent

We tried to observe Advent one year. We had a Jesse Tree, we hung the ornamental pictures each day, and we read the words each night that anticipated Jesus' coming. It was beautiful and lovely and sentimental and we made it a week, I think.

Necessity might be the mother of invention, but I am the mother of good intentions. So many of them.

The thing about intentions is they don't complete. They don't have a finish. We call them intentions because we intend to show a good start and a willing heart but they fall short, and drag us down with them.

Attempting to add a new routine for 4 weeks of the busiest season of the year has proven to be an utterly ridiculous idea for us. As much as we want to slow down and savor and remember, we are failures at adding any formal Advent celebration.

It makes me sad, but it shows me who I really am, too.


We all know about waiting.

Mankind has been waiting since the Fall, waiting for the song of trumpets and triumph. We always think we hear it in the short bursts that are a reprieve from our folly, what seems like victory; but it's an imposter's song and we know this because God still is not walking with us.

That's what we are tempted to think sometimes, isn't it?

I don't really mean it, of course. I just don't know how to wait for someone who is already here.

We are missing Him everyday, you know.

...they shall call His name Immanuel. Matthew 1:23

We forget that He comes against all our expectations and that He shows up as a ram in the thicket, a brother risen from the dead, the passover lamb, a kinsman redeemer, and a baby.

The world goes on.

Isn't it a kind of poetry that Christ, whom we wait for, is showing up in all the unexpected ways everyday? Even when all we can say is Lord, come quickly, He is already here and already home and already saving us to the uttermost.

He is not what we expect but He is with us.


I hope Jesus doesn't begrudge our failed attempts to remember Him.

I don't think He does.

Sometimes I'll catch myself breathing shallow and small and realize that my chest feels awfully tight. My lungs need to expand, like a stretch to the sky.

It feels good to breathe deep, but it's not as though I wasn't breathing at all before.

That's what it's like to wait for Him.


I've been reading slowly through Hebrews for the month of December. I had intended (that word, again) to read through the whole Bible this year but I quickly realized what an idiot I was.

The Word of God sings, and if I rush it I get Alvin and the Chipmunks.

I plug along, slowly picking and choosing and sometimes following a plan, but sometimes just reading a Psalm for the sound of it. I am trying not to force it, trying to read for joy and not obligation.

I stopped at Moses in the hall of faith and I'm still sitting in the words that tell me he gave up the royalty of Egypt, all the riches and honor — just as Christ gave up all to join us in our afflictions (Hebrews 11:25).

Moses endured as seeing Him who is invisible (vs. 27). The same Moses whose face was lit by the burning bush and the glory of God - He endured with a vision of the God-always-with-us, but unseen.

But you did see Him, I think to myself.

I want my own burning bushes but these are the terms: tell me what I want to hear, show me You're with me, and let's do this now because I'm tired of waiting.

That's the kind of brat I sometimes am, for real. And this is why my intentions don't hold out and our Advent ornaments get hidden away in the box marked "Christmas decor".

I am impatient and uncertain.

Waiting is hard.

It reminds me of what I lack.

I could throw all the Advent stuff out and not face the stab in my heart each year when I remember, again — not that Christ is coming — but that I am a failure of the first rate.

Or the failure can remind me of Christ coming to touch real feet on real soil, precisely because I can't remember that my own two feet are on holy ground and pretty Advent pictures don't do the work in our hearts.

Immanuel, here with me because of my failures.

Immanuel, the hope of an invisible God I see.

Immanuel, the promise I have now for Christ-here, Christ-coming, Christ-forever.

It's a song that gets better each year and that's precisely how I wait.