Friends, I share with you the profound word of the Lord to my heart this Advent season:
Cafe’ con leche.
Yes, I am pretty easily impressed. But I know this is from His heart to mine because He alone understands my love of the Spanish language and of coffee. So He speaks to me in Spanish. About coffee. What could be more profound for me?
The primary part of cafe’ con leche (Spanish for “coffee with milk”) that is meaningful to me this Advent is the word…
Emmanuel is God WITH us. Not God beside us or God near us or even God surrounding us.
God WITH us.
I can brew coffee and put milk in a cute little pitcher beside it (since I’m a sucker for cute little pitchers and what else can you do with them, really?). But that’s just milk beside coffee. Neither is of any help or joy to me until they are irrevocably combined. Once they become cafe’ con leche—coffee WITH milk—they are perfection and they can never go back to being just coffee beside milk.
They were two things. They have become one exponentially glorious thing. I may be overstating the connection between coffee WITH milk and God WITH us, but it is good for my heart and I am happy to share it with yours if you find it meaningful.
Advent is about God WITH us. He comes. He mixes things up in a way that is gloriously irrevocable. He never goes away. He promises He never will. Even after His death and resurrection, Jesus assured His disciples:
I am WITH you always.
So there’s no doubt about it. Emmanuel came. He stayed. He is WITH us now.
How is He with us? Sometimes we just need to look around to see it. Here are a few ways I see Him WITH me this Christmas.
By God’s grace, my husband unknowingly blessed me with an early gift this year. He took our house off the market for the rest of 2016. I had no idea the pressure trying to sell our house was generating until it lifted! I know where my family will be this Christmas! We can sidestep keeping house and instead keep the traditions I never realized were so important to me.
Now we can, in fact, locate and display the Advent calendar that grows over 24 days into a magnetic nativity scene; we got it in Santa Fe when our oldest child was in a stroller. We can hang our collection of ornaments on the tree and reminisce about all the places we got them as souvenirs, or how they represent our family highlight a given year (like our first home in 2000), or why our girls picked a specific ornament as their own each Christmas (documenting when Barbie or My Little Pony entered our scene).
And we can point out the remarkable number of ornaments that my typically careful, detail-oriented husband has somehow destroyed and we’ve put back together. It never gets old! Collecting Christmas ornaments has sort of turned out to be our family scrapbook since I’m not great at keeping photos organized or displayed. It’s a comforting, life-giving, surprisingly contemplative tradition. I guarantee God is WITH us in our time as a family—always, and it’s particularly precious at Christmas.
Another place where I can see God with us is in His enabling us to be WITH others in (admittedly) mostly small ways. Our girls love filling Operation Christmas Child boxes every year. It increases their awareness of brothers and sisters in Christ all over the world and helps them appreciate the blessings of God in their own lives.
We have also fallen into a beautiful tradition of gathering with close friends during Advent to share artistic—primarily musical—interests. The event is a delight to my heart, largely because I deeply appreciate how every person present is so genuinely encouraging to my children in their musical endeavors, no auditions or critiques necessary. These friends are a treasured manifestation to me of God WITH us.
One other little God-with-us-and-us-with-others tradition we have stumbled upon began when our friend Kara was in the hospital around what would be her last Christmas on earth. My brothers were visiting and our crew was headed out for our annual viewing of festive lights downtown while drinking something hot and yummy. We stopped at the hospital to drop off some pajamas we’d gotten for Kara. It seemed small at the time, but our girls referenced that stop several times that year (2014) and the next (2015).
As we were preparing for the same festive lights excursion in 2015, we all expressed our sadness that Kara was no longer with us and, honestly, my heart was really sad. Then we learned that our friend Blythe’s family was shut in for the night because of illness. We were able to show them the small kindness of taking them hot beverages on our downtown tour—and somehow the whole evening felt redeemed! We had been able to do something for Kara on our lights night in 2014 and now for Blythe in 2015. Our little gift was, appropriately, cafe’ con leche.
I’m looking forward to how God WITH us will help us be WITH someone we love when we tour the lights this year. I’ve got my eyes peeled, as my Texan Papa would say. It will likely be simple. And I will likely think it is profound. After all, I’m pretty easily impressed.
How is God-WITH-us with you this Advent season? What opportunities is He giving you to be WITH those He has placed in your life?