By Vanessa Hunt & Heather Patterson
I could see it all so clearly in my mind. The twinkling lights of the Christmas tree in the corner of the room. Perry Como’s voice crooning as only he can croon those holiday classics. Snowflakes gently falling outside the window. Steaming cups of hot cocoa with marshmallows, and my family gathered together, perhaps wearing matching holiday pajamas. My husband would take out his Bible and read to us the story of that very first Christmas. The kids would be so moved by the moment that they would forever have it emblazoned in their memories. They would pay homage to us years later as they recalled to everyone near and far how their parents, particularly their mother, had created such magical holiday experiences for them. Because I could see all of this playing out so clearly in my mind, I just knew that I could turn this vision into a reality. I informed my husband that come Sunday evening, we would be making Christmas memories as a family like nobody’s business. When I described to him what I envisioned, he just looked at me warily. But there was no room for skepticism in my Advent dream.
Sunday rolled around and after dinner we told the kids that we would be meeting in the family room to do something special. Their little eyes lit up with excitement, and I could see all the pieces of my Advent puzzle falling right into place. I sent my husband to grab his Bible, checked that the Christmas tree lights were turned on, made sure Perry was crooning at just the right volume, and flipped the switch on the gas fireplace. I instructed the kids to sit down on the floor and explained that we were going to start a new tradition together as a family. We were going to celebrate Advent and Daddy was going to read to us the story of the first Christmas, a little bit each Sunday for the four weeks leading up to Christmas, with the last portion to be read on Christmas Eve.
Their lack of reaction gave me my first clue that perhaps this evening wasn’t going to go as planned. But just as my husband was opening the Bible, my son yelled, “Wait! Can I read it?” Oh, this was even better than I had imagined! Our child showing so much interest in Advent that he wanted to read the story from the Bible to us himself. I fought back tears as my heart swelled with pride. Without hesitation my husband passed it over to him and showed him where to start reading. He began slowly working his way through the verses and then it happened. Someone passed gas. Loudly. Really loudly. And it smelled bad. Really bad. Uncontrollable giggling, the inevitable response, ensued and soon the glow of the fireplace, the twinkling lights of the Christmas tree, and even Perry Como couldn’t make up for the fact that my Advent dream was becoming more of a nightmare. We tried to regroup and start over but it was too late. The kids quickly moved from giggling to wiggling to wanting to be anywhere except sitting quietly in some kind of wannabe Hallmark-movie moment.
After tucking them in bed for the night, I returned to the family room and sat staring at those fake logs glowing in my fireplace. I thought about how I had dreamed, had expected, the evening to go. Glancing over at the Bible, which had been casually tossed aside amid all of the gaseousness, I began to think about how often my expectations don’t match up with reality. About how I build things up to unrealistic proportions, which so often leave me feeling disappointed, and how after all these years I should know better. I picked up the Bible and began to read about another woman whose dreams for her life didn’t quite turn out the way she had planned. A young woman whose expectations for her future were suddenly and drastically altered.
The angel went to her and said, “Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.” Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. But the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favor with God. You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over Jacob’s descendants forever; his kingdom will never end.” (Luke 1:28–33)
The word advent means “arrival or coming” and as Mary awaited the arrival of her son, the son who was also her Savior, I’ve often wondered if she was consumed with thoughts of how different her life was now going to be. I think that sometimes in our retelling of the Christmas story, we forget that Mary was just a girl. A young girl who had hopes and dreams for her future, ones that up to that point hadn’t included giving birth to the King of kings. But, in verse 38 we are given a glimpse, through her response, of how we are to respond when our lives don’t go according to our plans. “‘I am the Lord’s servant,’ Mary answered. ‘May your word to me be fulfilled’” (Luke 1:38).
I believe that Mary was able to rest in the knowledge that, while everything might not be going according to her plan, the outcome would be far more amazing than she could have possibly imagined. So I choose to embrace my own reality, knowing that while there are so many things that have happened differently than I had planned, they always end up better than anything I could have orchestrated. Hallmark can keep its picture-perfect moments. I’ll take my version any day!
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Having grown up as daughters of a pastor, sisters Heather Patterson and Vanessa Hunt strive to turn their houses into homes that reflect the creativity endued in them by their Creator. Heather and Vanessa are the creators and authors of AtthePicketFence.com, a website dedicated to providing a place where women can share, care, and inspire one another. From Life in Season by Heather Patterson and Vanessa Hunt© 2016 by Vanessa Hunt and Heather Patterson. Published by Worthy Inspired, a division of Worthy Publishing Group. Use by permission.