Failing on the first Sunday of Advent

I’ve been anticipating with much excitement the arrival of Advent and Christmas!  I love sitting by the Christmas tree after the boys are in bed, reading, writing or just being still and thinking.  I’ve been excited to start using the new Advent materials I found for my own

The boys love lighting the candles on the Advent wreath and sometimes fight over whose turn it is.

personal devotional time as well as for family devotions.  And yet, today was the first Sunday of Advent and I’m already feeling let down.  First, because church didn’t really meet my expectations today.  Most evangelical churches in Oaxaca don’t follow the church calendar and I’ve discovered that many of my Christian friends here hadn’t even heard of Advent.  So, I wasn’t necessarily expecting a sermon on Advent, but there really was no sign of Advent at all.  And, the sermon preached reflected theological views that I disagree with and I found myself getting upset and forming arguments in my head about why I am right and he is wrong.  Plus, the church has been dealing with conflict recently which is quite evident to everyone in the congregation and it makes things uncomfortable.  Since I’ve been serving as a mediator, I felt like people were watching me – who I did and didn’t talk with after church and how much time I spent talking to each person.  Maybe I’m being a little paranoid (probably), but I just wish the conflicts would go away.

Second, I realized that I was not as prepared for Advent as I thought I was.  I hadn’t printed out the visuals for the reflection we would use with the boys.  We didn’t have the tree up yet to put the corresponding ornament with the Bible story I would read.  Plus, when I tried to do the reflection at dinner (without the visuals) the boys were just being silly and any question I would ask them, like, what are your hopes for this Advent and Christmas season, they said things like Santa bringing us lots of presents.  Really?!?  Santa?!?  I mean, they do know about the true meaning of Christmas!  I did have my personal devotional time, but not as I had planned, or hoped.  I had thought I would wake up early (my husband is laughing right now!) and have some quiet time to start this Advent season off right.  Well, I am NOT a morning person.  And, today the boys and Jojo the dog woke me up.  So, after taking them all to the park (which is what Nils usually does while he lets me sleep in), I made blueberry pancakes and then it was time to get ready for church.  So, no morning devos.  Then, we rushed home from church to watch the end of the Vikings vs. Packers game (we got to have our priorities, right?) and let’s just say Nils was the happy one after that game, which I guess I am glad for since he’s a bigger football fan than I am.  Later, Nils and I did find a little bit of time in the afternoon, while the boys were playing their imaginary football game together, to have a cup of coffee, cookies and read our Advent meditation and Scripture on the terrace.  I was definitely thankful for that time, even though there was little time to really reflect as I had hoped.

So, basically, my conclusion is I am a mess and I need help.  Yes, so many good intentions and so little discipline to follow through with them.  I have come to the prayer, where, like the new book by Anne Lamott that I really want to read, I only can say, “Help”.  Help me, Lord, to be more disciplined this Advent and willing to sacrifice.  Help me to be aware of the longing I have for you and to make time to be with you and just be quiet and reflect and hear your still, soft voice.  Help me to give up the expectation to do this perfectly.  Today was obviously proof that I will fail, but that’s OK, because whether I fail or succeed, you will be present, for you are Emmanuel, “God with us”.  Help me to show grace to others and to myself when my expectations for this Advent and Christmas are not met.  And, thank you, Lord, that your mercies are new every morning, and that I can start again afresh tomorrow, and there are still 22 more days of waiting for and anticipating your arrival among us.

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2 thoughts on “Failing on the first Sunday of Advent”

  1. Thank you, Erika, for your honesty, vulnerability and prayer. May this Christmas be a holy and blessed time for you, Nils and the boys.
    Just a reminder – Santa will become less visible as your boys grow and they capture real reason for this holiday. ( I just couldn’t bring myself to say “season”.)

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  2. I appreciated your blog so much. It is so important to have these family traditions, even though at times with children they don’t turn out as we wish. I still remember when Ron was 5 and Susan 3. It was her turn to blow out the candles and as soon as Ron heard the Amen, he jumped up and blew them out. Susan flew at him like a wild person and I wondered if the service meant anything to them. However, through the years as we continued it as a family, we did find it very meaningful.

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