Just a few snapshots of some favorite places around the house, where lights warm it up or the Christmas spirit has inspired some special creation.
The weather outside has turned decidedly even grayer, and colder- but I hear it never gets quite cold enough to produce snow. Instead, we who sit below the famous "north-south" line in China have a home without heat, but reside in freezing temperatures. It makes for some interesting months. We are starting to appreciate our super warm slippers we purchased this summer, and our long-johns, and the extra blankets, and mugs of hot anything. And in spite of the fact that at the end of this month most of our expat community will be exiting the country for warmer places or the more familiar faces of their home countries for the long five week break, when we will be holding down the fort here in The Land of Gray and Cold, we are heartily looking forward to the celebration of Christmas and an extended time of rest and togetherness.
In the meantime, we are preparing. It is not always a pretty process. The decorating of our tree had a few bumps and grumbles, and there have been a few full or stressful days with all the activities required of us at school. But as my Man said today after a particularly difficult morning of worship (or attempt to worship), it's not supposed to be easy. I don't know if that is always true, but it is certainly true when you are surrounded by natural elements, whether or nature or flesh, that are always going awry. To prepare your heart for worship, or to worship in the midst of it all, to lift your eyes up and remember with faith that there is hope, there is Presence of a Person, there is meaning for the day here and now, all in middle of the grind of circumstances that truly do wear on you, is not for the faint of heart.
And that is another reason I love Advent. Advent is not about getting your heart all righteous and ready with peacefulness and quiet so that you can have four weeks of heightened worship and spiritual experience. It is the work of longing and groaning, of fighting for hope in a dark world, of choosing faith when you are discouraged, and rejoicing in hope because all is not lost.
It is also a gift,; both in small aesthetic ways, and mysterious, earth-shattering ways. It is a gift to have a reason for the additions of beauty in lights and candles, greenery and decorations that bring nature and loveliness and things that delight our eyes but somehow warm our hears, into our homes-- especially just as the world outside has so little to offer in its dreary months of winter. It is a gift to have something to look forward to... a celebration... that lifts us out of the ordinary days and makes us think differently, if only for a couple weeks, on things we have known perhaps for years or centuries, but can never fathom the depths of.
No, Advent is not for perfection, not even the perfection of preparation. It is not for the fainthearted, but it is for the weak and weary, and for all those who long to be blessed by the gift of His Coming.