the first week of december comes quick. hardly a moment's pause from the table of thanks to the rush of twelfth month. and few are immune. everyone seems in motion, stepping swiftly into a season, busy and bright. i tell myself to run fast now so that i might sit still soon, so that later, i might linger a little. i am right there with the masses, the throngs, the hordes pressing forward. i am right there with the early december scurriers.
this past weekend, when the turkey was gobbled gone and our extended family drove away, we worked like a people possessed. all of us, decorating trees, checking lights, unwinding ribbon. from one end of the house to the other we traveled, leaving a trail of christmas behind. it was complete chaos--inside and out. garland and greenery flying. music loud, children louder. at one point, saturday night, i stopped for a minute in the midst of it. pausing with ornament in hand, i watched my raucous family at work. it is only on occasion that we work this well-oiled, this smoothly. and i am certain it is important to notice the finely tuned moments of living--mentally record them. store them up for the rainy, bickering, biting kind of days which come. i sat for a few minutes and let the family-ness of the evening wash over me. the mother in me drinking up the noise and flurry of everyone together, the cacophony of us. even this, yes, even this wildness, was beautiful. though i longed for the finished product, it wasn't necessary to see the beauty of what we were creating. memories. boxes and crates crashing, opening and spilling all around. children running off with holiday things -- foregoing all instruction. ignoring all words of caution. of course there was some bickering--how could there not be? but still, oldest son outside stringing lights in the winter dark, oldest girl placing candles in windows, the middle ones wrapping themselves in strands of lights and laughter. and baby girl just dancing wildly, an ornament in each hand, happy in the midst of merry. joy in the middle of love.
somehow we finished. not completely, but we had made good progress and 815 buttercup trace was beginning to look a little like christmas. it was late when we closed the last box and i shooed them all up the stairs to their beds. with the family finally tucked in, i did what i do every december evening when the tree comes in and the quiet comes close. i sat in the stillness and marveled at the beginnings of beauty. the tree and me in a silent room on a, finally, silent night. all the evening's roof-raising gone. the twirling, laughing, merry-making children now with heads on pillows and dreams close behind. it is a soft place to be. a grace-filled place to live. i burrow into my quiet knowing full well the treasure comes tender only because of the rowdy dance of our day. i savor the pause, for tomorrow we wake and the loud living continues. as it should. and with full heart and tired eyes, i switch off lights. reluctant.
not long after sleep has come, i hear my son's voice whispering in my ear, "mom, wake up. the tree fell over." he shakes me serious. it takes me a minute, "tree?" i ask. "why?" brilliant question. and it finally sinks in, our christmas tree has fallen over, and i am into my slippers and down the stairs with my son on my heels. sure enough, all 11 feet of it, now sprawling across the family room floor. ornaments and glass and water everywhere. we both just sort of stand and stare for a minute--i am not thinking all that clearly, but i am sure this is not the same serene place i left just an hour or so earlier. the beauty and the quiet and the calm have fled. and for some reason my first thought is, will the twinkling white lights still work.
after assessing damage and mopping up water, i go to wake my husband. he, too, stares in disbelief. this was not at all how christmas was supposed to begin. between the three of us, the tree is returned to its intended state. upright and tall, albeit, slightly disheveled. a hammer, fishing line and nails are brought from the garage. plan b. husband and son are all business. we clean up the shattered pieces and rehang wayward ornaments. it is different this time though. 1:30 am and there isn't any wild merry-making to be found, only tired parents and a tired teen doing their best to restore order. sometimes it is like this though, isn't it? sometimes our most glorious moments come crashing down around us. our beauty shatters and we are left with a mess. we are left with sharp pieces and an untimely, unwanted clean up. sometimes our quiet is stolen with a boom and some brokenness. we are frustrated by the things which go awry, by the plans which change course on us unannounced. i'll be honest, i don't like anyone messing with my picture perfect. not anyone, especially not a tree.
the next morning we share our story with the rest of the family. everyone is kind of dumbfounded. really? our tree? this tree was flat on its face last night? the children look a bit disappointed to have missed all the action. this is something to tell. this will be a story come monday morning. we've never lost a christmas tree before. and throughout the day we continue to straighten and tinker with the massive evergreen. i fiddle with ornaments and ribbon-- [the white lights DO still work]. rick checks on his fishing line and hook contraption. he talks to the tree, making sure it knows he's not messing around this time. we are all a little wary of the whole thing. we step around it carefully, and quietly hope all, finally, is well. we are waiting for it all to feel, once again, secure and serene. there is a lot of hope around this christmas tree today. probably some prayers whispered. we look and we watch and we wait.
with dinner dishes washed and bedtime approaching, the family gathers again to sit beside this beast of a tree. and despite the escapades of our rebellious spruce, the decorating is done, and tonight begins the real waiting. tonight begins the season of hope and expectation. i know children, and even some adults, all over america, (and in my own home) are eagerly waiting and hoping for december 25th. children count the days until christmas...adults count the hours left to accomplish long lists. but tonight is the first sunday of advent and there is the first candle on our wreath to light and there is talk of another kind of waiting. the violet candle of promise and hope burns bright, reminding us of a Savior who is coming--who has come and who will come again. the tree is upright and still. the room washed in the glow of white lights and violet candle. boisterous family as calm as can be. and we pray, "Lord, let us soak in this season. let us look past the tree and its presents and the busy-ness of this month. Lord, help us to look for you -- the long awaited Jesus."
the tree. the gifts. the merry and bright. all of it wonderful. all of it to be enjoyed. but all of it, sure to disappoint. all of it, sure to come crashing down or caving in at some point. the purple-violet candle burns and the waiting for Jesus begins. and in His coming alone, perfect order, perfect grace. perfect. beautiful and serene and truly restored.
"O God, by whose word all things are sanctified, pour forth Thy blessing
upon this wreath, and grant that we who use it may prepare our hearts
for the coming of Christ and may receive from
Thee abundant graces. Who livest and reignest forever. Amen.”
~ traditional prayer for 1st sunday of advent