I don’t want to rush the Advent season, but I am certainly in a rush! Now, let’s be honest… How often do we read Haggai? Wait for it… That’s what I thought. Today is an excellent day to do so:
Haggai 1:5-9, “Now this is what the Lord Almighty says: “Give careful thought to your ways. You have planted much, but harvested little. You eat, but never have enough. You drink, but never have your fill. You put on clothes, but are not warm. You earn wages, only to put them in a purse with holes in it. This is what the Lord Almighty says: ‘Give careful thought to your ways. Go up into the mountains and bring down timber and build my house, so that I may take pleasure in it and be honored,’ says the Lord. ‘You expected much, but see, it turned out to be little. What you brought home, I blew away. Why?’ declares the Lord Almighty. ‘Because of my house, which remains a ruin, while each of you is busy with your own house…
It sounds like a twisted Advent version of the Big, Bad, Wolf, but then something odd happens. The people respond, and the Lord says the most beautiful words of all…
“I am with you,” (v.13)
We are these people. We are these people who run and rush and forget to give careful thought to our ways. I’m not sure this is particularly horrible in any specific sense, but it is, indeed, distracting. It distracts us from what really matters, and that never ends well.
I need to confess. I love this season so much that I try to cram in every possible beautiful tradition, every single year. In many ways, this is life giving to me, so it’s not all bad. The other night, when our family sat down to watch one of the Christmas movies we watch every year, my thirteen year old son was suddenly struck by the realization that not all families have this tradition. His eyes got huge, and he didn’t speak for a moment. It is truly unthinkable to him that not every mom insists that her children watch every Christmas movie she can get her hands on, from classics to pre-school TV specials (even though they are way too old) to glossy new titles. He was so sad when this dawned on him.
In addition, I have made this list of things that have to happen from day to day, during Advent. I have been stressed out about a few of them, this year, because I can’t keep up, and some of them are not happening (or, at least, not happening yet…)
There should be a different Christmas book to read every night… and an Advent calendar (only Lego will do). The Advent wreath must be lit from week to week, with recitations and prayers. We also celebrate Hanukkah at our home, so consideration must be given to the menorah and the Hebrew blessings and Hanukkah books and new family games and fried food and chocolate coins (I’m thinking about this in great detail, right now, since it is actually Hanukkah). We have a Christmas Eve tradition that includes new pajamas and a family movie night, and the truth is that part of the reason for this is a deep desire for the kids to sleep in past 12:01am, because at some point in our lives I told them it was OK to wake us any time after midnight on Christmas Day, and they will never forget it! This is problematic when the presents aren’t yet wrapped! This is oh so problematic in years such as this one, when Christmas Eve (or Christmas Day) falls on a Sunday and somebody’s on staff at a church…
As if all of this isn’t enough, we added some Epiphany traditions a couple of years ago, and I am excited to announce that this has expanded to a new twelve days of Christmas thing we’re going to try for the first time, this year.
I shared my fantastical list of Advent/Hanukkah/Christmas/Epiphany awesomeness with my husband the other day, and when he got to the end of it, he said, “What are we doing for Jesus?”
That sounds overtly spiritual, but what he really meant was that I had forgotten to put Jesus’ birthday dessert on my list! (Jesus used to get a cake, but for the past decade we have had a kid with a 12/26 birthday, so now Jesus usually gets brownies or cheesecake).
Still, I had a very small meltdown, as I exclaimed, “Oh my gosh! I forgot Jesus!”
The reading of the nativity story (which happens every year whether it’s on a list or not) and Jesus’ birthday dessert are now on the list. Don’t worry. I have it all under control.
And yet I think I feel a little bit like the Jewish people of the book of Haggai. I expect so much… It amounts to so little without the right ways…
Psalm 31:24: “Be strong, and let your heart take courage, all you who wait for the Lord.”
Oh, that Jesus would come… that Jesus would be with me… that Jesus would be with us… We are waiting…