In quiet expectation We sit and wait Warmed by Mary's Faithful yes And comforted By Joseph's quiet strength. This season brings hope To all life's doubts As who can resist such a small, Perfect babe Lying in the hay? How can we not Follow that golden star, Throbbing high above - Radiant and wonder-filled?
This is a season of huddling in around marvelous candle light and soaking in sights of purples and greens and reds. The frosty air lends naturally to this – ushering us closer to each other for warmth and renewal. Our homes fill with the sound of merry music and the smell of Christmas cookies. The walls and mantles are adorned with joyous decorations that brighten our days.
We hold tight to this season, a season of hopeful expectation, expecting peace and love to reign from our humble dwellings.
The desire to enrich our homes with beauty and warmth is strong. Especially as mothers, we are tempted to over emphasize doing – decorating, activities, baking. We make a list of beautiful things that will surely bring the season to life for our children and if they don’t get done, or don’t get done well, then somehow we have failed. We often steal our own joy because of the emphasis placed on ideals. When the cookies burn, the decorations aren’t perfect, and the quiet we try to carve into our days is interrupted by real life, we are left frustrated and disappointed.
But, amidst the failures of our best laid plans is the greatest of invitations –
Simplicity, quiet, and hope.
Last week as I pulled the advent candle holder from storage, I imagined the most perfect set up. I took great care putting it in the center of our dinner table. I surrounded it with freshly cut evergreen branches and little tea light candle holders. I bought an advent calendar and hung it near so the kids could take turns lifting the flap each night. Just before we settled in for dinner we would dim the lights and perform this little routine. It would be perfect!
But…… oh, there is always a but.
The candles topple over at the slightest bump against the table (and we bump the table a lot). We can’t leave them lit for long in fear they’ll set the house ablaze. And the hustle and bustle of dinner time actually isn’t the most conducive for a prayerful gathering. Everyone is hungry and restless. In a frenzy of frustration, the first day of advent left me thinking “what’s the point.”
But then I remembered –
Jesus was born in a stable.
Remembrance of this little detail has brought me peace ever since, because beyond my best intentions that inevitably fall short – though wonderful, and worth the trouble – lies a baby in a manger. And beside that baby is a mother and father who probably did not plan, nor expect, to have their child, God’s child, in a stable. But he was born in a stable, and thank God for that! He is not inhibited by our limitations. He can and wants to be born anew in our hearts and homes this season. He is just waiting for us to open the doors, to let him into our imperfect lives.
I know that my struggle is nothing more then failing ideals, but I wanted it all to be perfect. I wanted to have something to show. That desire is a little bit vanity and a little bit pride, but it is also a holy desire to give God my very best. A desire to give my family the joy of glorious expectation.
As I think of Mary and Joseph, I am reminded that they too were met with failing expectations, changed plans, and many interruptions. Their journey was not smooth nor perfectly executed (in their eyes). In the midst of these interruptions in my life, I see the invitation to be more like the Holy Family. An invitation to press on, to simplify, to rest in quiet hope. Jesus’ coming is not dependent on my abilities only on my willingness to remain open to Him.
It is in the midst of interruption that we are able to strengthen our trust in Him. It is in the midst of our failed plans that we are able to let go of our own will and follow more closely in His. So, let us not be afraid to open the doors of our hearts wide, allowing Him to work in and through those interruptions and disappointments. Let us work to humble ourselves, becoming more like Mary and Joseph as we travel our own road to Bethlehem.
May the Virgin Mary help us to open the doors of our hearts to Christ, Redeemer of man and of history; may she teach us to be humble, because God looks upon the lowly; may she enable us to grow in understanding the value of prayer, of inner silence, of listening to God’s Word; may she spur us to seek God’s will deeply and sincerely, even when this upsets our plans; may she encourage us while we wait for the Lord, sharing our time and energies with those in need. Mother of God, Virgin of expectation, grant that the God-who-comes will find us ready to receive the abundance of his mercy. May Mary Most Holy, “Woman of the Eucharist” and Virgin of Advent, prepare us all to joyfully welcome Christ’s coming and to celebrate worthily his sacramental presence in the mystery of the Eucharist.A Prayer to Mary, Mother of Advent by Pope Saint John Paul II