On December 1st, I bring out the Advent calendar.
It is the one my mother gave me when Molly was born. Each animal, shepherd and wise man — and ultimately baby Jesus — is velcroed to the manger scene one-by-one until the big day arrives.
And from the moment it appears, the conversation goes something like this:
Micah: I get to put one on first! I get the odd days and you get the even days.
Molly: He always gets to do it first. Fine. Whatever.
Micah: And tell her not to put the shepherds in the sky this year. She always puts the shepherds in the sky! Shepherds don’t fly.
Molly: Why do you care where the shepherds are?! When it’s my day, I can put them wherever I want on MY day. I’m a rule breaker. What can I say?
The back-and-forth goes on for 25 long days. Just to irritate him, Molly sometimes takes the animals Micah has put on and puts those in the sky. This is the point where I begin praying for “Peace on Earth” and consider making the calendar fly into the trashcan.
But somewhere along the line, I realized something. They both secretly like it — althought they’d never admit it. Micah would be disappointed if Molly didn’t put shepherds in the sky. And Molly would be disappointed if Micah didn’t have a fit about it.
Then, there’s the Christmas tree.
Every year, I have this dream of the whole family decorating the tree — all of us with laughter in our bellies and a twinkle in our eyes.
Instead, this is closer to the picture at my house:
Me: Time to decorate the tree!
Molly: Now? I want to decorate, but not now. Can’t we do it later. (Goes back to important texting activities.)
Micah: I’ll do it, Mom.
Finds out he has to help bring decorations from garage. Joins Molly on the couch.
Micah: Maybe Dad will help.
Me: I think Dad may still be traumatized from the whole setting-up-the-tree and hang the lights experience, but you can ask.
Micah and I begin decorating tree alone.
Molly (finally looks over): Hey! Don’t do it all! Begins to rummage through ornaments. I remember this one! I made it when I was, like, in first grade. You can’t put this one on! It’s so ugly.
Molly and Micah begin laughing at the old ornaments and the memories associated with each one.
Dad hears laughter, decides its safe to emerge, and begins playing Christmas music and hanging a few ornaments.
It’s the same fight every year. But I think they all secretly like it. (Although it’s a bit traumatic for me.)
When Jesus came 2000 years ago, He wasn’t what people envisioned. They would have expected a majestic King coming in all His glory. Instead, He was small and humble. Born in a manger under far-from-perfect circumstances.
But there is something wonderfully beautiful about the real-ity of His birth.
It’s a valuable reminder that “real” life isn’t always what we plan. Sometimes it’s better.