Yesterday was the fourth Sunday of Advent, and today already is Christmas Eve. Tonight you will play Silent Night on the piano at church and dress up like an angel in the children’s nativity. Tomorrow you will find your stockings full.
But today, it is not yet Christmas.
Yesterday we got out the last of our Christmas decorations. I unpacked our full ceramic nativity set that was painted by your Grandpa Troutman’s mom, my special grandma Ginny, who passed away when I was in high school. I set out all the pieces—even baby Jesus, even the Magi. Because I want the set to be complete, and I want to remember Ginny, and I want you to be mesmerized by the beauty of the angel, which you tell me is your favorite piece of the set.
Yesterday I moved our journeying Mary and Joseph and their donkey over to our empty creche, to prepare for their son’s arrival. This evening the shepherds will arrive.
Yesterday we lit another candle in the yule log. We read a story from our Jesse Tree book. You made special cards for each of us during quiet time.
We have one ornament left to color today.
This morning, your grandma and grandpa left after a visit for the weekend. The day after Christmas, another set of grandparents will arrive.
But right now, we are in the in-between.
There is so much fullness in the in-between, girls, and so much broken-heartedness in the in-between.
I mean “in-between” in the larger sense, of course.
Advent is about the already/not-yet. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. But the truth is, all of life is the already/not-yet. Our life of faith that we share together and practice together is just an expression of the deeper truth at the core of all that is: God created the world, God broke through into time in the most humble and surprising of ways, God offers us hope and salvation, and God wins at the end of the story.
But we live before the end of the story.
Which is why we keep telling the story and living the story.
The liturgical year is one way of remembering the most important things, of telling the story of our faith over and over again, of helping us live the story even when we don’t feel like it because everything we see around us seems to contradict it.
Notice I said “seems” to contradict it—I sure don’t believe it actually contradicts it. I believe that if we have God’s eyes, we see grace and hope breaking through all around us in miraculous ways every single day. But it doesn’t feel like that a lot of the time.
On Christmas Eve, I think of my Pappy Lehman, who passed away in 2015 on Christmas Eve while gathered with family in Pennsylvania. I was states away, here in our house with you, when I got the call. That loss will always be wrapped up in Christmas Eve for me.
And so will the loss of Ginny every time I unwrap the ceramic nativity she painted or place on the tree the angel ornaments she gifted me.
But there is also so much joy and wonder on this day as Christmas rolls in gently, on candle light, on the notes of the piano I can hear coming through the floor as you practice your carols again and again just for the fun of it.
It is Advent and it is Christmas and it is beautiful and difficult.
It is joy and it is loss.
It is beauty and it is chaos.
It is light and it is dark.
Because that will always be life in the already/not-yet.
Merry Christmas, girls.