Waiting for a savior.

Even as I write this I am still asking myself the essential questions of Advent. What does it mean to experience the joy of Christmas? What does it mean to wait for a savior? I entered in to Advent in a deeper way than ever before this year. I committed to the waiting and the hoping and the quiet preparation of my heart (and house) and its sort of wrecking me...

My husband and I have the same disagreement (read: fight) every year over when we should put up the tree and decorate the house. We have, of course, agreed to make Gaudete Sunday our day to do all of the above in an effort to both give time for the quiet of Advent to set in and also to usher in the anticipation of joy at a proper time. We've settled on waiting for that pink (ahem sorry, rose) candle and yet it seems to cause an argument every year anyway. He would wait until Christmas eve at Midnight if I agreed and I would be cracking open the attic and dusting off the garland shortly after Thanksgiving if let me. My argument for wanting to decorate early is that 'preparation' includes decoration. I wouldn't wait until a guest arrives at my house to begin tidying the house and changing sheets and so we shouldn't have to wait until Christmas morning to change the decor, right? Right. Or at least thats what I tell myself. If I'm honest the truth is that I just love all of the lights and the music and the glitter and I don't want to begin all of that when the rest of the world is packing up. Of course, he's right in a way (though I'll deny it till my last day;). Waiting for Christ means, well, actual waiting. But, the waiting has little to do with whether or not you put up your tree early and more to do with your heart.
Early in Advent I lost something that I desperately needed to find and unfortunately, I just knew it was in one of our 'junk' drawers in the kitchen, otherwise known as the Bermuda triangle of south Louisiana. As I opened one drawer after the other in my search it dawned on me just how junkie the junk drawers had become over the last couple of years. I decided, reluctantly, to take some time and clean them out. As I cleaned them it was hard for me not to dwell on the fact that I could be using this time to do other things; washing dishes, laundry, cooking dinner. Or maybe I could be doing the big things that needed to be done before all of the Christmas company arrived in a few weeks. Even if I couldn't put up the decorations I could be doing other important things, the things they would notice; like dusting, mopping and tidying up the perpetual mess, not making a bigger one. After all, nobody will be opening my junk drawers during Christmas parties, nobody would even know that I took time to do this, nor would they care. And yet, it needed to be done, maybe more than some of those other things. I got rid of so. much. junk. Not to mention I found things that I didn't even realize I had lost, important things, valuable things. I even found the thing I was looking for in the first place.

I didn't realize it quite yet but my junk drawer cleaning fit would become a pretty poignant analogy for my Advent. My commitment to preparing my heart, the quiet space that no one else could see yielded more than I anticipated. In prayer I dug up all kinds of things, messy things, things I had hidden, things I forgot I had! And I found things I was looking for and things that I didn't even know I needed. And like any big mess you clean, it gets worse before it gets better. All of that mess however, came along with a promise from Jesus that he would indeed come. That He would be the one to free me of my junk. That he would save.....me.
What I realized in my prayer was that sin essentially always means that in the moments when I need a savior the most I rely on something else.  I replace the maker of my heart with the things of this world. My dilemma is not original, it is the dilemma of Adam and Eve and every human after. What if I wait for Him and he doesn't come? What if the good He promised is not good enough? What if I trust and it doesn't go as I've planned? Left with that worry we take what we can for ourselves and we settle for infinitely less, then we need more and it all starts over again. Lather. Rinse. Repeat.
Now, just a short time from Christmas I find myself in full anticipation of the coming of my savior. He will come. I know it. But what does that look like, really? Like....really? Scripture tells us that He will "heal the afflicted, bind up the brokenhearted, release the prisoners, bring glad tidings to the poor, recover sight to the blind, those who hope in Him will soar like eagles they will run and not grow weary." These are some pretty lofty promises.
If I wait on Him will He save me in these immediate and tangible ways? Or better yet, will he 'clean my kitchen, do my laundry, change my health, subdue my children, fix my country and maybe even wrap my Christmas presents? Those are my plans, my vision of a savior, not His. Much like the Israelites I want a strong arm and a mighty sword to take care of business, but He has other plans. My husband and I (and some very patient Mothers Day Out volunteers) have been collectively trying to wean my 2 1/2 year old off of his pacifier for the last many weeks. It's the kind they give you in the hospital only attached to a little stuffed monkey; his 'noonie'. He LOVES it. Addicted. He can't sleep without it. He whines incessantly for it and if we do successfully take it away he finds a way to steal it. When people in public see him with it they say "Aww...look how cute that little monkey attached to it is." and I always reply, "Yep, there's a monkey attached on BOTH sides." *eye roll*.
All that to say we've been dreading and avoiding REALLY taking it away, for good. But yesterday in a fit of insanity and sleep depravation, I did it. Even though I had taken it away after he woke up he found a way to steal it back.  I took it away again and he lost his mind. So, right then and there I did it. I was calm and collected but clearly out of my mind. Not only did I take it away I ripped the monkey apart from it and cut the tip off with a pair of scissors. As you can imagine, mass hysteria followed. (And the baby was pretty upset too.) For a while he just yelled at me "fix it mom! fix it!" At first I wanted to make it better however I could. I tried candy and toys and tv but it all just made him cry more when he realized it wasn't 'noonie.' Once we both mostly recovered he ran off to play with some legos and I returned to my laundry. But about every 15 minutes or so he would come back to me crying softly asking for it. When I explained, again, that it was broken and that it could not be fixed, he simply asked me to hold him. This made for a slow laundry day but I gladly obliged all day long. After a few hours of this he didn't ask for it anymore he just came to me and put his arms out and we would snuggle as long as he needed until he was ready to move on again. Nap time was rough, he mostly just cried and the afternoon consisted of a lot more hugging. When his dad got home and it was time for bed he started crying all over again, as if he couldn't bear facing the night without it. He cried all through family prayer and then when his dad asked him what was wrong he put his pouty little face in his hands and sad with the saddest, resolved voice I've ever heard, "noonie's gone." I had to rock him to sleep, which he rarely lets me do these days. When he finally closed his eyes and he was peaceful and at rest I looked at his little face for a long time and I was overcome with love for him. It occurred to me in that moment, as it often does, that this is how God looks at me and at you. It also occurred to me that I could learn a thing or two from my 2 year old.
 Giving up our 'pacifiers' are hard. Sometimes we struggle to give them up, sometimes they are taken from us against our will. Whatever the case, when we struggle, when we hurt, when we are broken, what we fill the hole with matters. If you're like me its taken a long time to figure out that in that moment (and every moment) what I need is a savior. What I need is THE savior. It's also taken me a while to learn (and I'm still learning) that what it ACTUALLY looks like for Him to 'save' me in those moments looks a little different than what I usually have planned. I always want Him to 'fix it'. He just wants to hold me. I want him to defeat my enemies for me, He wants to make me stronger. He wants to make me free.
Christmas is in late December because it is in the darkest coldest parts of our lives when the light of Christ can shine the brightest. Today is the shortest day of the year and things are very dark. Let us keep waiting in joyful hope together for the coming of the savior. And when He comes (because he WILL come) just be held.
There has been no mention of ''noonie' today. Not one word. (But still a lot of hugs.) He slept through the night and just went for a nap as if nothing has changed. I never thought I'd say this but, I want to be like my baby when I grow up.

“For, after just a brief moment, he who is to come shall come; he shall not delay." Hebrews 10:37

“Do not be afraid; for behold, I proclaim to you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For today in the city of David a savior has been born for you who is Messiah and Lord.  And this will be a sign for you: you will find an infant wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger.”And suddenly there was a multitude of the heavenly host with the angel, praising God and saying: “Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.” Luke 2:10-14


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