This week my to-do list grew and grew, until I finally gave up, put it on a spreadsheet (oh yes I did) and figure that either it will all get done or it won’t. There’s the logistical must-dos (buy a turkey, mail a tuition check, get cat litter) and the wanna-dos (vacuum the house, clean the bathrooms, press the linens, finish shopping for Christmas). As it happens that I am on call tonight, and then family starts arriving tomorrow, I am down to just the must-dos.
One thing that I’ve discovered is that the holiday will still come, whether I have things done to my list’s standards or not. I feel a lot of my tension dissipate as I think about what we will do…
- We will still bake pies and cookies and laugh
- We will eat turkey and ham and potatoes and all kinds of yummy stuff
- We will celebrate with friends from our church family
- We will enjoy the far-too-brief visit with our daughters and their friends, all home for the weekend
- We will remember family and friends who are a long ways away… and miss them
- We will make time for the things we enjoy the most – a little football, a little shopping, a little story-telling
It’s all in the manner of preparation. I make my lists, but then, when the moment is here, chuck the list in recycling and just wing it.
There’s another element of Thanksgiving week that has become a sort of family tradition — as we have turkey leftovers and watch football, we also begin to decorate the house for Christmas. We’ll put up the tree, string the outside lights, and find a place for the Advent wreath on the table. We’ll fish out the Christmas music and sing carols. We’ll trade out the Thanksgiving tablecloth for Christmas-y colored ones.
And when the house is quieter next week, as I sit and watch the tree twinkle in the living room, I’ll think about the joys of being together, and anticipate the next time we share a meal. I mentally prepare for the times we will spend in December… even as I remember the moments we have just enjoyed. As the week rushes into Advent, I try to take some time to ponder what we’ve done, where we are now, and what we plan to do.
It is this double-vision – looking ahead and looking back – the permeates the Advent scriptures:
Isaiah 40 (CEB)
A voice is crying out: “Clear the Lord’s way in the desert!
Make a level highway in the wilderness for our God!
Every valley will be raised up, and every mountain and hill will be flattened.
Uneven ground will become level,
and rough terrain a valley plain.
The Lord’s glory will appear, and all humanity will see it together;
the Lord’s mouth has commanded it.”
Isaiah’s words were to a people who had wandered away from God. They had chosen other gods, other places to invest their worship and affections. By forgetting the God of the ancestors, they were living with casual disregard for God in the present. And the future? It wasn’t probably even on their minds. Had they become complacent? Self-satisfied? Not so much openly rebellious and disinterested? Whatever the excuse or picture that we try to paint, the children of God were being called back to remember, to worship, to rededicate themselves to living intentionally with God.
I ponder what it would have been like to be forcibly ejected from my homeland, to be mocked for worshipping a God that leaves me in exile. I think about the ways that I forget all God has done… all the ways that I am blessed, protected and cared for by God.
The Lord’s glory will appear, and all humanity will see it together…
Advent takes this double-vision of thankfulness and hopefulness, and brings us to a place of awareness. Awareness of how much God has blessed us. Awareness of the responsibility we have for living with joy and obedience today.
As I prepare, I remember… I clear the way to celebrate the birth of the Christ Child, and the joy and change in my own heart.
Thanks be to God.
(Now… about that cat litter and trip to the post office…)