Everywhere we look – Chik fil a, the mall, the lampposts – they’re all saying the same thing. Whispering with the cadence of the Polar Express train…”Jesus is coming. Jesus is coming.”
Many other things are coming, too, though – My son’s birthday into Heaven. My husband’s first day of therapy after his brain surgery and resulting stroke. The end of a year that, although I’m not superstitious, still does end in a 13.
But I can’t help but be reminded every time we see another garland, or a light, or a festive envelope in the mail that we know will hold another greeting of love from someone special – it’s all ok, because “Jesus is coming. Jesus is coming.”
Our family has been an advent family for three years now. Well, I kinda started it. My girls then were more into the boxes of ornaments and the hidden Peanut M&M’s (“circles”, they called them then.) that were inside. Last year, we did it, but only because we needed a constant to focus on with our son’s leaving us so imminent. It was a distraction of sorts. A grasp of desperation to hang on to the hope of something bigger and prettier than the mess we were in the middle of.
And now, this year. The girls were so ready for Advent. But I was even more so. Again, feeling like drowning underneath loneliness of being at home all day every day (almost) but yet feeling the exhaustion of a calendar filled with doctor appointments, followups, therapy appointments. Advent really does come at the perfect time for us each year. Just when we need a refocus on something bigger and more important than us and the mess we’re in.
Day one: There was a tree. The Family Tree of Jesus. It was cut down. And out of the dead, hopeless stump will come a branch of life. Of hope.
We can’t come to the Christ-mas tree before coming to His family tree. Or we’ll miss the point of it all.
I’m desperate to find the point of all of this. And I’m desperate to grasp onto a tender shoot of hope. So, I’m not missing it.
“Jesus is coming. Jesus is coming.”
Day Two: There was nothing. God made something out of it. Then He, with the other two of Him intimately made man in their image.
We were formed out of love. He can’t just leave me. He created me. Perfectly.
Day Three: We sinned. We went away from that perfectness because of the pull of a tree’s fruit.
And now the only way we’ll be free again from that pull is by coming to another tree. But for that tree, they had to wait. And now we wait.
And in this process of counting candle holes to Christ’s coming to save us, we can see something bigger than ourselves.
I hear it again. “Jesus is coming. Jesus is coming.”
It’s the one time of the year when an earthly birthday is more important to me than my son’s Heavenly one.
I’m so thankful Kyle went to Heaven in December. I don’t think I’d survive it all any other time of the year. A month when someone loved was sent away from their home for a purpose much bigger than themselves. That was Jesus. That was my Kyle.
That’s why we do advent. And why we will every year.
How to make your own advent spiral
(in about an hour, and for probably free)
You can make your own advent spiral if you’d like. (If you’re not so much the crafty type, you can purchase one here.) You’ll need 4 simple ingredients and an oven set at 350* F, a work space, and some guitar christmas carols in the background. At least, I need the carols. A seven year old to help is recommended but not required.
To make the salt dough, you’ll need:
2 cups of flour
1 cup of salt
1 tbsp of olive oil
1 cup of water
Step 1: Mix your ingredients together. You may need to add a little more flour – you want a playdoh consistency – not too sticky, but not too dry either.
Step 2: Once you get it well-mixed, you’ll want to turn it out and knead it a little. Just like you would bread or play doh bread.
Step 3: (This is where the seven year old really knows her stuff.) Take out a small fist-sized portion of your dough, if you want to make a Mary and a donkey, then roll out all the rest of your dough into a snake.
I wanted my snake to be the as long as our table was wide. The exact measurements were about 36″ long and 1 1/2 inches *fat*.
Step 4: Roll it into your spiral shape – on a cookie sheet or stone.
Step 5: Open your taper candles – you only need one at this point. We just had all of them already (You can get candles for $0.45/each at a Walmart, btw. You can get 25 – one for each day, or you can use one candle and move it around the circle with the Virgin Mary every day.) Press your candle into the dough to get a candle holder hole space. We made 25 holes.
Step 6: Double check all your holes. (As you make new ones, sometimes your dough can collapse on the ones you made before a little. When we’re finished with all of them, we re-fit the candle bottom in each one just to make sure they are the correct shape.) Then bake it in your preheated oven for 40 minutes. Once it comes out of the oven, it will be hard as clay and ready to use within a few minutes of cooling!
Step 7: (If you want to add a Virgin Mary, like the original real-wood one.) Draw, with a washable marker, a Mary sillouhette and donkey onto some wax paper or parchment paper. (You can find a simple template here, I just free-handed it.) Lightly rub the design onto your fist sized mound of leftover salt dough. (Keep that circle about a 1/2 ” thick so it will stand up!) Then cut out your design with a butter knife. Bake it right along with your spiral for the same time.
It’s not too late. December 4th is not too late. You need an hour. Not the last three days. Go ahead, and make this. Start waiting for our Rescuer from our brokenness. For the Earthly birthday that can trump any Heavenly birthdays this month. “Jesus is coming. Jesus is coming.” It’s worth getting excited over.
There are several Advent guides online – some I’ve listed below:
(free!) An entire downloadable Advent Packet from Faith at Artistic Hands of Faith. (Click the download link.)
(free!) An easy to color Advent Packet for little ones from Need to Sleep. (Click the 2011 download link.)
(Buy the book, then get access to the free) Beautiful cut out ornaments from Ann Voskamp’s study at A Holy Experience.
If you’re using your own special guide already, feel free to list it in the comment section!
Special Note: Advent Spiral aside, if you can’t quite pull off this daily feat of wonder, go get this feat of wonder – Ann Voskamp’s new Christmas book. It will be just what you need to keep your focus on the higher, the bigger, the more eternal, than where you are right now.