I’m driving through a neighborhood of sparkly, shimmery, storybook-style homes, all decked out in their Christmas finery. There’s not one over-inflated reindeer or Hawaiian shirted Santa in sight (unusual for Southern California), but every house is decorated for Christmas, 21st century style. It’s Currier and Ives meets Williams-Sonoma. Dickens’ London meets Target stores’ Orange County.
It should make me happy, but it fills me with dread.
It’s not even a week since Thanksgiving, and all around me, houses are decked out stunningly with an almost military precision. Upbeat, jazzy Christmas carols play on T.V. Skinny baristas are brewing peppermint lattes by the gallon. People are finishing up their shopping. Finishing it. And me? I’ve still got turkey in the fridge. I haven’t thought about Christmas cards. I have no idea where I stored the Advent wreath, but I fear that finding it might involve something dangerous, like cleaning out a closet. Work is piling up, and deadlines are slithering closer like the Grinch in a Whoville house. In the past week my husband and I have dealt with a slab leak, assorted power outages, and a certain teenager’s truck that inexplicably became mired in a canyon. We’re fried like two chickens in a slow cooker.
“It happens,” people tell me. But no one seems to understand that it’s not supposed to happen to me. I’m the Advent Lady, after all. The one who writes all the cute little Advent books and blogs reminding families that they really can make time to light the Advent candles after they’ve spent the day shopping and baking and cleaning and working and having their eleventh nervous breakdown of the year.
The worst of it is that with everything going on, I feel like I haven’t been present for my kids for the past month. And I don’t see us having time this year to do all the Christmas-y family things I’ve been envisioning–snuggling up on the couch watching old movies…baking cookies together…taking time to prayerfully light candles in church. I come home, feeling like a big fake Santa, and sit at the computer, ready for another evening’s work. As I move a stack of books, a scrap of paper falls on the keyboard.
I ignore it of course. I’m much too busy feeling sorry for myself. The hours tick by. Sometime past midnight my eye falls on that scrap of paper. I’ve got nothing left, so I reach for it.
Unfolding it, I read:
Hail and blessed be the hour and moment
In which the Son of God was born
Of the most pure Virgin Mary,
at midnight, in Bethlehem,
in the piercing cold.
In that hour vouchsafe, I beseech Thee,
O my God,
to hear my prayer and grant my desires,
through the merits of Our Saviour Jesus Christ, and of His Blessed Mother. Amen.
It’s the Christmas novena prayer of St. Andrew, meant to be said each day from the feast of St. Andrew on November 30 to Christmas. For the past few years, I’ve picked up this little scrap of paper each evening during Advent. There is something powerful in this prayer that offers a glimpse of that stable in Bethlehem. So, how did it show up here on my desk, on November 27, around midnight?
I honestly have no idea. What I do know is that I still have a few days before Advent even begins. I also know that it’s never too late to celebrate the birth of our Savior. My problems are nothing compared to what others have on their plates. Thank you, God. We’re going to be just fine.
A blessed and love-filled Advent to you!