Advent with Arms Wide Open

It's the first week of Advent and I'm already feeling behind.

The stockings are hung but I have yet to purchase the goodies to fill them.

The picture we'll use for our Christmas card has been taken but cards have yet to be ordered, no less sent.

Names have been exchanged but no gifts have been purchased.

One Christmas dress has been purchased – since we have two daughters, I suppose having two would be a good idea to avoid the other attending her Christmas program in blue jeans and a t-shirt.

Half of the outdoor lights are up – the rest needs to be done with the use of an extension ladder and therefore, I'm deferring to the Man of the House.

We've brainstormed gift ideas for the kids but have yet to carry them out to fruition.

And the list of half-done (or none-done things) goes on.

On one hand, I look at what I've accomplished so far and think, “Hey, not bad! After all, it's not even December yet!” But on the other, well, I'm feeling just a little bit stressed.

And you know what's ironic about that? I'm stressed about trying to not be stressed.

You see, during the 34 trips I've taken around the sun, I've learned a thing or two about time: it just goes faster. And faster. And FASTER. And the older my kids get, the worse it seems. My girls are now involved in the Christmas program at church which occurs the Sunday before the holiday. So now, instead of feeling like I have until the 24th to finish everything, I feel like I really have to have it all together by the 18th since that service is really the “kick-off” to the chaotic “Christmas week”. And then you throw in a few other events, such as our annual Gingerbread House-Making Day at my mother-in-law's, Birthday Party for Jesus, Christmas cookie-making, a few get-togethers with friends and of course, getting and putting up the Christmas tree, and you might as well kiss the month of December good-bye. And I know this.

And every year I say I'm going to be on top of things. Every year I vow to get more done earlier. Every year I promise myself I won't be stressed when Christmas finally arrives.

But it's the first week of Advent. And Christmas is coming, whether I'm prepared for it or not.

And where is my focus? Where is my heart?

We've all heard the adage “Jesus is the Reason for the Season” and while that is entirely true and a noble saying, we miss the point if we think it only refers to Christmas Day itself. The truth is, pledging to get more done earlier really doesn't help anything; it simply leaves more room to fill with more “stuff” in the weeks to come. We leave our hearts ill-prepared to embrace the joyous celebration if we fail to focus on the coming Christ child in the weeks leading up to it.

So this year, I am asking God to help it be me be different. I'm not asking Him to help me finish my to-do list in record time or suddenly make me a person who can function on only mere hours of sleep. I am asking Him to help me let go of the stuff that steals my focus, the tasks that fill my arms, leaving no room for Him, and the things that make Christmas feel more like a burden than a blessing. I'm asking Him to guide me through this Advent season with arms wide open, ready to receive His ultimate gift of His Son.

Please say you'll join me...we're going to have the best Christmas yet :)