Some days just start…right…good…sweet…beautiful. I open the door to see him out, and my eye catches one of the first snowflakes… He knows how much I love the clouds and the cold and the snow. It was His gift to many, but I had to smile to know that He also thought of me…of my name…of my heart’s desires.
One blessing unfolded into the next. One smooth moment to the next moment. Bliss. A piece of Eden right here in my little life!
How true a statement. Eden…here…but just like then, there is an enemy slithering around…seeking who he may devour. In a matter of some shaky moments, all that is firm and right and higher can fall. I find myself angry and irritated and unnerved over nothing, and all of a sudden what was bliss is now broken. I can almost hear the serpent as he slithers into my Paradise, and I recall what I read just this morning – that he attacks our faith by fear and doubt. He paralyzes our faithfulness by trying to kill our communion with our God. Just like that and all that was diminishes and we are left in the dust, outside the gate.
12 Therefore Jesus also, that He might sanctify the people with His own blood, suffered outside the gate. Hebrews 13 KJV
44 Now it was about the sixth hour, and there was darkness over all the earth until the ninth hour. 45 Then the sun was darkened, and the veil of the temple was torn in two. 46 And when Jesus had cried out with a loud voice, He said, “Father, ‘into Your hands I commit My spirit.’” Having said this, He breathed His last. Luke 23 KJV
let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, 2 fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. 3 Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart. Hebrews 12:1-3 NIV
Yesterday was not the first day of Advent by any calendar, but it was the day that our family was going to gather. A time to celebrate His arrival, and there I sat, retreating, in my chair. As I sat trying to regain composure, I gazed intently upon that figure of swollen Mary riding on her donkey…herself awaiting His arrival.
I wonder if the elements of that journey to Bethlehem or the reactions of her hometown or the uncertainty of stability ever caused her “fixed eyes” to wander? Did her spirit ever struggle? Her mood ever turn ugly? Her tone ever snap? I honestly don’t know. She was highly favored in God’s sight. Mary had learned how to submit even before marriage to Joseph was proposed. She had learned the gentleness and meekness of the God-child before He was conceived. It seems Mary had known God intimately even before the Holy Spirit had overshadowed her. Human though she was, Mary knew the eternality of her life, and she chose to live for that hope all her days…young maiden to graying widow. She was not without imperfections; she knew her need. Still, Mary knew where to place her faith, her fears, her frustrations, her doubts. I wonder if she stopped mid-reaction, before she exploded her inside struggles, and rested in His presence? His care? His love? His Way? On her way to welcome the arrival of the Christ-child into her life and the world, did she talk less and listen more? Complain less and praise more? Doubt less and trust more? Struggle less and “be still” more? Did she? Will I?
He came upstairs with the children. I had heard him say, “It’s time to do Advent.” I was silently cringing and rejoicing. Cringing because I was still trying to get ready to “welcome” Him, and rejoicing because he remembered. I didn’t have to sulk over another lost day of Advent because no one but me remembered; He did…and he did. And there I sat. (I don’t know what position I will be in when I see Him face to face, but I highly doubt it will be slumped down in a chair. Jesus entered the world and some stood and many bowed…some even began to scheme and fight against Him, but no one who encountered Him just sat stiff.)
He gathered the children around that same figure, standing beside the small light of a candle. He read of The Fall of mankind. How we who had perfect and complete communion with God forfeited it for a moment of ungratefulness and selfish desire. We, who had all that was good, bit off more than we could stomach. And all of a sudden, those who had walked with Him in the cool of the morning, were hiding from him in the fire of their sin. And He called, “Where are you?” Adam and Eve were hiding and cowering beneath the leaves and shame of who they now were..naked…uncovered. (Isn’t that just what sin does…uncovers and shames…leaves us crouching low beneath whatever might shield us from Perfect eyes.) And though Adam and Eve had to now lead a life outside the gate, in the hardness of a life that knows “good and evil”, the One Who Is Good never left them alone. He remembered fondly those walks in Eden, and He longed for them again. So, God left Eden…very heaven…and entered into sinful mankind…clothed Himself with all their evil…so that the sting of it would die once for all. Then He rose again, in all His Goodness and Glory, and bid the world to Advent – to come. We who should be initiating such welcome, are instead the recipients, again, of His. The only way we could receive Him, is if He welcomed us back into His presence first…back to Eden…to the open gate. We who are far off are led by a Gentle Shepherd right to the Gates…that are open wide! And we don’t just walk beside Him, but He in us!
Now, we, who have known nakedness for so long are invited to purity once again. It’s been awhile since mankind has worn royal robes; it will take awhile before we wear them properly. But He is the Master Tailor, and He has been waiting to gift us with this since we walked out in our man-made garments. He crossed borders and sin-covered souls to give us this Christmas gift. Will you bid Him, “Come!”?
He ended our first Advent reading with a song. “O Come Let Us Adore Him…Christ the Lord!” Though I still sat in that chair, my heart had bent under the Glory of Him. I sat amazed that I could share in the privilege of His Presence, all because He would not live without me.
Come, Lord Jesus, Come!
Is it time for you to do Advent? If you have your own experience that you’d like to share, here could be a good place to start.