If you’re like me, you picture calm, flickering candles when you think of Advent. Moments of peaceful prayer in the early morning light. A holy hush, a patient yet expectant waiting, a focused and intentional season of hope and deep joy.
If you’re also like me, your Advent this year hasn’t really looked like that. Peace, calm, hope, and quiet feel so very out of reach. Instead, words like chaos, exhaustion, frustration, and desperation come to mind. My prayer times have been interrupted every couple minutes by two tiny tornadoes. It’s a hot-mess express around here and the train just keeps rolling.
Earlier this year, we welcomed our second living child into the world. A precious baby boy who was diagnosed with reflux shortly after birth. If you’ve had a reflux baby, you know that means we’ve hardly slept the past nine months. On top of that, we have a gorgeous and dramatic 2-year-old little lady who is only slightly better at sleeping than her brother. And as this year draws to a close, we seem to be magnets for every germ known to man as we currently finish up our fourth round of sickness in the past few months.
These are small crosses in the big scheme of things, but because of them I’ve spent most of this Advent tired. Restless. Burnt out. While I normally revel in this Church season of joyful hope, this time around has found me struggling to cultivate both joy and hope in my daily life. It’s easy for me to become discouraged by the distance between my Advent expectations (achieving sanctity?) and my Advent reality (a hot-mess Advent!). I’m so far from who I wanted to be this time of year.
But you know what I’ve discovered? There is still hope for a hot-mess Advent. Through my prayers and reflections, Mother Mary has shown me understanding and encouragement. Even though she was perfect and sinless, she was not a stranger to mess or exhaustion or even shattered expectations. Her first “Advent” was not sitting at home in the stillness of candlelit prayer — it was sitting on a donkey feeling all the discomforts of third trimester pregnancy! The Son of God — her son, her first and only child — was born in a foreign town in a messy stable. The circumstances of her Advent and Christmas on the outside looked like a hot mess.
But on the inside, her heart was at peace … because Christ was within her. She was calm, trusting, even joyful despite the difficulties around her. This is the hope for us. The hope for our hot-mess Advent. Even in the midst of chaos and struggle, we CAN find peace in our hearts by imitating Mary’s acceptance, her not-just-once-but-daily fiat, of whatever God brings us this Advent and by remembering that He is with us on the journey just as He was with Mary on the way to Bethlehem. Things might not look like we envisioned or desired, but we can find deep joy, hope, and peace when we cultivate humble acceptance and trust. Mary has shown me it’s okay for my Advent to feel messy and uncomfortable as long as I keep turning my heart to Jesus and inviting Him in — and seeing Him in those around me.
If this Advent has found you struggling with family brokenness, busy schedules, financial difficulty, or even just cranky babies, don’t lose heart. I pray that you can find Christ within you and around you, especially by physically receiving Him in the Eucharist. And when you have found Him, may you experience the true rest and peace that He promises (Matthew 11:28, Philippians 4:7). May you come to see your hot mess as a beautiful mess, because He is being born into it. Emmanuel — God is with us, even now.
In what area of your life might God be gently calling you to humble acceptance so that you can find His peace and presence within it?
Copyright 2018 Laura Range