December 1st. The first day of advent. Something I’ve never particularly paid attention to, but was always part of the Christmas season growing up. I remember the special wreath tucked aside in an unassuming position in the front of the church. Not front and center, but centered in front of the section of rows off to the side. Families were assigned to the lighting of the candle each week. Verses read. Lighters fidgeting in the hands of nervous children. A flicker of flame dancing.
I’m not sure I’ve ever given advent a second thought aside from popping open a paper door that hides a small piece of chocolate.
This morning, I woke up heavy with the thought of it.
The year is winding down. There are only 30 days left. And another year will have come and gone without a pregnancy. Without growth to our little family of two. And then I picked up an advent devotional. And the invitation of a shifted perspective was offered as an olive branch in the mouth of a dove.
As I wait, may I shift my focus to the wait for the coming Christ. As I wait for my own family, may I think of Mary’s anxious wait for hers. The impossible Promise from a God of grace and mercy. The wait of the unknown. And the fulfillment of promises so rich and so pregnant with hope that all she could do was ponder them in her heart. (Luke 2:19)
Mary said little, but held onto much. Though she didn’t perfectly understand, she tucked it away. All of it. Every single word. Every happening. Every little thing that God graciously allowed her to catch glimpses of. She pondered. Expecting that some day, it would all make sense. Some day, she would understand. Some day, she would see clearly and not dimly.
I’m currently reading a book on contentment. In the second chapter, I read this quote:
Two women looked through prison bars. One saw mud the other saw stars.
Each of us has a choice, the author went on to say, about how we look at life. … Every woman has circumstances that appear to be prison bars. God wants you and me to learn to be content in our circumstances, not when they improve.
Contentment in the right here. Right now. Contentment in the wait and the unknown. Contentment in the parable-spoken promises that don’t fully make sense yet. Contentment in the hope that some day, we will understand.
And then I thought of John 9.
Now as Jesus passed by, He saw a man who was blind from birth. And His disciples asked Him, saying, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?”
Jesus answered, “it was not that this man or his parents sinned, but that he was born blind in order that the workings of God should be manifested, displayed, and illustrated in him. (amplified version) I must work the works of Him who sent Me while it is day; the night is coming when no one can work. As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.”
When He had said these things, He spat on the ground and made mud with the saliva; and He anointed the eyes of the blind man with the clay. And He said to him, “Go, wash in the pool of Siloam” (which is translated, Sent). So he went and washed, and came back seeing.
Jesus made mud with His saliva and spread it as an ointment on the man’s eyes so he could see.
“What if?”, I thought. What if we ask God to use the mud to open our eyes to His glory manifesting itself through the negative things we dwell on? What if we saw through the mud. And, in turn, saw through His eyes? What if we only see His glory manifested, displayed, and illustrated when the mud is spread over our eyes and a spiritual ointment?
LORD, through this wait and the anticipation of another year ending, may I look through the mud to behold Your glory. And the anticipation of grace beginning anew.
For there is hope for a tree, if it is cut down, that it will sprout again, and that its tender shoots will not cease.
This weekend, I gave a ladder a makeover. Hosing it off, cutting off a rung, removing metal, and washing it over grey before putting it in the corner of our living room. This morning, I read these words:
The mattering part is never what isn’t. The mattering part is never the chopped off stump. It isn’t what dream has been cut down, or what hope has been cut off, what part of the heart has been cut out. The tender mattering part is – you have a tree. Out of the last and forgotten son of Jesse comes forth one tender branch that will grow into a crown of thorns … a rugged cross … your ladder back to God. Jesus will go to impossible lengths to rescue you.
I don’t have an advent wreath. But I do have a candle. And a ladder now rich with symbolism. Today, I have a ladder-wreath. And it’s funky and unexpected and outside the box. But isn’t that how God speaks?
Here’s to seeing through the mud. Here’s to the wait. Here’s to Advent.