The Empty Box

I think the wise men are trying to tell me something!

That’s right, I openly admit it, it is the second week of Advent and we have not made our candles yet!  I feel like Advent is flying by and I still can’t get it all together. It has been a rough start with sickness, unexpected delays, my husband working lots of overtime, and general chaos. I looked around today and thought, I am failing! This is not what Advent should look like. Where is the family Nativity that consumes the entire entertainment center with over 25 unique pieces?  We made a fresh, evergreen Advent wreath, but have yet to roll the candles, and have consequently only prayed the Advent prayer once. We are doing a Jesse Tree, but do not have an actual tree to use, so we are settling for an artificial pine garland that is precariously draped over the bookcase. We are only behind on two days of Holy Heroes videos, but there are only three of our handmade ornaments hung because we have been reshaping the few paper clips I could find into hangers, since I have not gotten back into the attic to find the boxes upon boxes of ornament hangers we own. I am following Father Barron’s Advent reflections, the Magnificat Advent ebook devotional, and the Christmas Crib devotional but am behind by two days in at least two of them. Where is the beauty? Where are the Angel choirs resonating through an Advent ready home? Why is my mission not being accomplished, my to-do list not being done? What would those who read my blog think if I were to photograph right now, right here? Sigh, deep sigh!

In my heart cry, God reached down to me and quieted a spinning head. I was reminded of Fr Barron’ s description of how we are all held in bondage. We are all seeking deliverance by a Savior. Deliverance from a messy home, and a toddler bent on making it messier. Deliverance from constrains of finances and a volatile economy where prices continue to go up faster than our budget can adjust. Deliverance from sick children, nasal drips, infected wisdom teeth, and teething in general. Deliverance from tight spaces, too much togetherness, housing options that you can see but not touch.  Deliverance from loneliness, self consciousness, battles of will, and defeats of spirit. Deliverance from mourning, from dying parents, from family interference, from family abandonment.  It goes on and on. O come, o come Emmanuel and set the captives free!!

We are saved, we have been redeemed, we are delivered from slavery; but we are still in process of being moulded and fired into the dainty treasure of a freshly, and completely emancipated victor. Our journey has not ended, but our happy ending has already been written. Advent is a time of waiting and preparation. It is a chance to sweep out the cobwebs, trim our wicks, ready our wedding garments, and openly accept His invitation. We are called to do this each day, every moment, but we lose focus in the midst of bondage and burden. Advent sets us back upon the path, it is our job to make it straight, to flatten the mountains, and fill in the valleys, to wash our soul and the body that clothes it in the river of renewal. This is the ultimate spring cleaning, as we begin a new year, and anticipate the entrance of the King into each of our humble abodes.

However, it is impossible to clean deeply while keeping your house in a state of company ready. You cannot perform home improvements and not disrupt the flow of work, people, and general life. Purging of unwanted baggage, boxes, and clutter, always produces bags, trash, and piles that must be addressed before the room is returned to normal. It always gets worse before it gets better. And so it is with spiritual growth and preparation. In cleaning out our heart and soul, a lot of dust of darkness and cobwebs of sin get stirred up and flung into the air before being swept out the door.  It always gets worse before it gets better, if you are doing it right. (I’m not claiming to be an authority, nor have the answer to it all. I am a sinner, a sinner who fails, but one who is trying very hard this Advent to clear out the old sin weighing me down and build up my D-day preparedness so I am ready when my Master returns)

At the start of each Advent, we are each handed an empty box, what we do with it for four weeks (and a few days) determines how wonderful and fruitful a Christmas we will enjoy, and how ready we will be at the dawning of NOT just a new year, but a new world.  We can take the box, spent endless hours finding the perfect wrapping paper. Calculate out to the nearest millimeter the ideal size to cut the wrappings. We can spend days painstakingly folding, creasing, and taping to perfection, only to top it off with a ribbon of such exquisite quality, we can scarcely believe our eyes. We have reached the summit of present perfection to rest under our tree.

Or, we can dig out our bin of present trappings that got stuck way back in the attic, lift the lid on the Advent box and dust off the inside. We can gently smooth all the wrinkles out of our many layers of multicolor tissue paper and create a prudent cushion to rest the Gift upon. We can inspect the seems of the box and reinforce them with tape or glue, then take time to meet with the Maker to learn more about the Gift and the wrappings it needs. We could spend days listening and taking notes on all that the Maker wants us to know. And then when our box is sturdy, clean, and softened, we can request politely for the Gift to be placed inside, tieing it gingerly with a ribbon from our own gown.

When it comes time to meet the King for the presentation of our Advent boxes, which will please Him more? The humble, possibly mismatched colored, box cradling in protective care the Ultimate Gift or the award winning, elegance of overworked, perceived perfection opened to reveal an empty box?

In the trapping of holiday achievement is the distraction from our true goal. While we fret and fluff, Jesus is seeking a humble “Yes!” As we tuck and pinch, pull tight and secure strong, Jesus is seeking arms that fall open and rise up. During the time we spend coordinating paper to ribbon and decorative sprig, debating symmetry and color balance to conceal our empty box, Jesus is seeking a heart emptied at his feet, a gift of our whole being not just a tidy package of how we wish to appear. As we scurry about the room finding the perfect lighting, placement, and platform for our box to rest, Jesus is seeking that door we blocked to be flung open. Is there room at your inn?

Advent is messy and often difficult, but Advent is a journey not a sprint to the finish, nor a means to an end. We are given four weeks, plus a few days to get our box ready and as we learned from the tortoise and the hare, rapid beginning do not necessarily equal solid finishes. God’s Mercy is new each day, even more so during Advent. We must accept the gift of each day and pledge to get closer and closer to making Him not just the King of Kings on our lips, in our dusty Bibles, and according to our head, but in all we have, do, are, and desire. In Him we dwell, in Him we move and have our being. Let us stop chasing the trappings and be. Be with Him, be for Him, be in Him, and invite Him to be in us.

How is your Advent going? A little messy? Do not lose heart, the Son is rising as the prophecy has foretold. He will sweep away the broken, illuminate the shadows, accomplish all that must be done and all we never even knew was required. Messy on the outside is alright if it is the result of clothing the inside in light, joy, and peace. Stand before the mirror and look deep within, that is your empty box—is it fit for a King?

God bless you all! Thank you for journeying with me.  Linking up with Catholic Bloggers Network.

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