The First Week of Advent

Sunday was the first Sunday in Advent, which is the period before Christmas in which we prepare our hearts for the coming of our King. I grew up in a very liturgical denomination, and following the church calendar with all its seasons and observances was very important. During Advent in our home growing up, my mother would light the appropriate Advent candles each night at dinner. After our family devotional and prayer time, we children would take turns reciting the Christmas story from Luke before pulling an ornament out of the Advent calendar to hang on the felt Christmas tree Mamma had made.

What a beautiful legacy our parents left us by teaching us to look forward to Immanuel.

My children are 2 and 3 now, and I am so excited about Christmas. We set up the tree and all the decorations over the weekend, and their joy and delight filled my heart! I was ready with all of my traditions to teach them about Immanuel who was born as a baby to save us. And then on the first day of Advent—the first day of wanting to pass down a legacy of celebration—Ann tornadoed around the house in jubilee, breaking two ornaments. The babies fought over Mr. Santa Potato Head, no one wanted to sit still for the daily Christmas book, and my eyes kept sadly drifting to the spot on the wall where I had wanted to hang our Advent calendar…if only I had finished making it this fall.

And then during my quiet time, I remembered a link my sweet friend Marcia posted to her blog—reflections on Advent and the Annunciation. I read it with a hungry heart.

Marcia is in the middle of her own cancer battle; she reads this passage about Mary being visited by the angel with a different perspective than I do, a perspective that relates easily to Mary’s life being totally interrupted, to Mary feeling out of control over her own story:

Mary wants details on the impossible becoming possible – a virgin having a baby. It’s outside the natural order; many have swept the virgin birth under the rug, or tossed it overboard in order to line up the story with their limited thinking. (We often don’t think as deeply and soundly as God does.) Well, proving we truly aren’t God.  Amazingly, miraculously, Mary trusts the angel knows what he’s talking about. Mary sets aside her life plans, her agenda. Incredible! Just maybe God had planned, and had prepared Mary for this assignment, in her young, trusting heart. “I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May your word to me be fulfilled.” Then the angel left her.

Wow. Marcia’s words went straight to my heart. What agenda do I have that I fear God interrupting? What agenda do I have that I fear God turning on its end?! Even my simple, well meaning agenda of Advent with my babies has already been interrupted. And as other, bigger agendas in my life are trampled on by life and challenged by my Jesus, the question is, How will I respond? Will I trust God or convince myself I know best? Will I retreat into resentment or lean into Jesus? Will I believe that Immanuel—God with us—has a life plan that is even better than my own, even when it might include suffering?

Marcia ends her post with this loveliness: I am the Lord’s servant. I am the Lord’s servant, I whisper to myself.  That just might be an important place to start Advent. And, trusting God’s plan, cancer and all. Can I trust He has prepared me for this?”

What agendas are you holding onto this Advent season? In what ways do you hear God asking you to let go of your agenda and trust Him? What fears do you have thinking about laying down your agendas? Do you have someone in your life you could trust with this part of your heart who can walk alongside you and pray with you?