After weeks of working and preparing my heart to soak it all in…our house came down with some viral thing and we spent Christmas morning fetching water and cool compresses for a very sick little girl. When a five year old is “too wobbly” to open her presents, it is the saddest! For days we arranged and rearranged everything around her little feverish self and by Tuesday when we thought she was feeling better, went for an outing that sent her back to bed shivering.
I had waited and worked and readied myself for a particular sort of Christmas week – the longing for celebration and glowy memories and the sort of cozy Christmas that would “make up for” last year’s silence and unfulfilled hopes.
And I think the thing of it is that I am always, always looking forward to things going according to my plan and I am 95% of the time surprised and indignant when they don’t. What is this about human nature? About my heart?
Oh, we had a nice Christmas – nothing was truly lost – our family was near, there were big surprises, lots of laughs, red wine, and dark chocolate. It was one for the books in many ways. But it was not what I’d envisioned and longed for.
Two weeks ago, my husband and I co-taught at our church’s weekend service on hope…and unmet expectations. Regularly I find that my hope is so often seated in things not only outside my control, but dependent on other people’s cooperation. When things don’t go as planned, I startle and I back up and I think to myself wait – this is not what I planned for. What’s this going to cost me? I fail to see the opportunity to listen to God’s voice and shift my perspective to a holier one and search out the ways my spirit might be compelled to move me outside myself.
Advent came and went.
The arrival of Christmas was not stalled by my annoyance and the reading of the Christmas story was not less beautiful because the listener was snuggled into bed with a fever. The celebration I wanted to “be fully present” for presented itself to me and I used the available energies and words and emotions the best way I could to hug it close.
I am learning over and again to open my hands and trust the longing and hopes I have to the God who created me to think and dream and plan. I am learning to ‘consider it all joy’ through disappointment and frustration. Some days I stomp and grump about and my mother has to tell me –a grown woman– to get over myself (only in much nicer words because she’s my mom). Some days I find the holy perspective required for walking through disappointment with grace and patience.
I know I need time to reflect on what the advent season really did for my heart – the hopes and longings may not have been fulfilled exactly, but I’m certain that my heart is fuller because of Christmas. I’m certain that it wasn’t lost in the midnight calls from a girl in desperate need of water (“I’m so, so firsty, mama”), in the presents I unwrapped myself at her request because she couldn’t, in the late nights and early mornings and piles of dishes and wrapping paper.
And it’s okay that I need time to fully see it. Sometimes it takes the quiet and the time before we can see more clearly. So I’m waiting and being quiet (or trying!) and looking for ways the longing is fulfilled – not in my hopes for a particular outcomes, but in the with-us God, Emmanuel.
Emmanuel, meeting my needs in ways I cannot anticipate or dictate.
Emmanuel, being present in ways I must look for and have eyes to see.
Emmanuel, my only real hope.
Merry Christmas, friends….