It hit me about six o’clock this morning as I was doing dishes, having Christmas at home was going to be a lot of work. A lot more then I had probably bargained on.Every year, we celebrate Christmas as a family, Dad, us five kids, wives, my sister’s boyfriend, grandkids, in-laws, and sometimes some random guests all gathering to celebrate the joy of Christmas together. It tends to switch off every year between my three older brothers homes. It seems like it has been years since it was back at home on the farm. Like bidding for the Olympic games, I threw out one tantalizing offer – I would grill a beef tenderloin for the entire crew. My offer was accepted and soon, we were planning Christmas on the farm.
The magnitude of what I had done hit me this morning.
It has been (or seems to have been) years since we celebrated Christmas on the farm. It will be hard, correction, it will be impossible to live up to those memories of the by-gone Christmas’s of our youth. The cattle in the barn, the warm house filled with laughter and love are locked forever in our minds. Here I was standing in the kitchen of that farm house, dishes piled high, canning from September on the counters, piles of township papers piled around the dining room table. As I walked out into the entry, I saw more clutter. The living room? Papers, books, and various nick-knacks and articles were piled up on the exercise equipment that has gotten planted in our home over the years.
Suddenly, it dawned on me – it was going to take some serious cleaning to get the house ready for Christmas. Some very serious cleaning – and there was no time in my schedule to come home over the next couple of weekends.
Anger, frustration, and my own stupidity washed over me. I was angry at myself for trying to bring Christmas back home, I was angry at my Dad for not keeping a tidier house, I was frustrated with life. This was not how it was suppose to be.
Then I remember, today is the first day of Advent….
You want to talk about an example of how things were not to be? A girl engaged to be married turns up pregnant. Her husband to be takes her anyway, but the Roman’s insist on a census that is going to take them far from home just when this same girl is suppose to give birth. Mary and Joseph being human, you can only think of the frustrations that came to their minds. In our minds, we have this image of a serene Joseph and a contemplative Mary as they worked side-by-side.
You can easily imagine it another way too – Joseph, tired and frustrated with the situation, maybe embarrassed (how did an engaged woman get pregnant?) – the gossip circles were as alive around the village wells as they are around the office water coolers today. Mary, probably hearing some of the rumors circling around the village, now forced to travel to a town where they knew no one and give birth.
There had to be some tough conversations, maybe some banged pots and pans, maybe some voices raised in anger, maybe some tears of frustrations.
In the end, it didn’t matter. He came.
Regardless if Joseph and Mary were ready, regardless if they were far from home, regardless of the rumors, and the slights, and the horribleness of the situation, He came.
In manger, far from home, in a stable, to parents that were probably as confused and scared as any today – and probably much, much more so – He came.
All of a sudden, the dirty dishes, the piles of papers, the dirty entry, they all seemed so insignificant, because in the end, He comes. Ready or not, a perfect spotless house or a tiny hovel, He comes. More important then if our house is ready or the food is perfect or the Christmas matches the expectations laid out by memories of youth – He still comes.
That is the joy of Advent.