Thursday, December 6, 2012

Jesus Came... Dust and All

An article I wrote for the Laity Lodge Family Camp's December newsletter.  A huge thanks to Jessica for editing ~ you put a pretty frame around my words!

I glanced across the den at our measly little Christmas tree, the sparse, glittery branches suspending a handful of ornaments. This gently-used display piece I’d bought from a gift shop was small enough to fit on a side table, the only piece of furniture in our bare living room.

Here we were, the week before Christmas, and my home looked like it had been through a tornado. The exciting part was that we were going through a remodel. The unnerving part was that we were going through a remodel. Smack-dab in the middle of the holiday season, our home was anything but cozy and Christmassy. All of our living room furniture sat stacked like puzzle pieces in a back room, and gaping holes in the sheetrock greeted those who entered our living areas. Because we were re-doing most of the downstairs floors, our piano remained wedged in the entryway, blocking passage to and from the front door. Tractors and trucks morphed both our back and front yards into gargantuan mud pits, which kept our floors covered in the footprints and paw prints of our four kids and three dogs.

This wasn’t my favorite way to spend the holidays, in a messy, crazy home. Our lack of order and routine made me fear that Christmas would simply pass our family by. I envied my friends as they decorated their homes, shopped for and wrapped gifts, and baked cookies with their children in clean, functioning kitchens.

As my discontentment grew, I knew I had to make a choice: either forge through the December days making our Christmas “normal” by enforcing unrealistic traditions, or hold those traditions in an open hand and take pressure off of our already over-extended family.

Neither option sounded fun.

I wanted to somehow—even in a construction zone—create an atmosphere for anticipating Jesus’ Coming. I also desired to actually engage my family during the Advent season and spend time together.

It turned out we could accomplish both of these even without living room furniture or a Nativity set. Each Sunday evening, we gathered on a quilt on the den floor with hot cocoa and took turns reading our Advent book. Those few candlelit moments drew us away from the mess and the mud and into the reality that Christ our Savior came into the world.

We looked at our calendar and set aside a few chunks of time for making a gingerbread house, driving around town looking at Christmas lights, and baking almond brittle for neighbors and teachers. The state of our home actually prompted us to look outward toward the needs of others, and we got to spend an evening with another family singing carols and visiting with precious folks at a retirement home.

I don’t think my kids missed a beat. We, for the most part, turned the calendar page to January without regrets. In the simplifying, we created a margin to enjoy each other, friends, and extended family, and to welcome Christ into our home.

This year we will enter the holidays with a more organized, peaceful home. But we are already reminded that moves, health issues, job changes, weddings, funerals, and the needs of friends will always challenge our holiday plans. Something will always try to diminish our joy and peace. But it doesn’t have to. Jesus was born in a dusty manger, not in a clean, decorated home. And isn’t that the point? He is the atmosphere. He is the season. He is Christmas.

Jesus still comes to our homes, dust and all.