The sheet my son holds is thin and weathered from the years.
It is an inherited page from my husband’s family.
The words and songs were his as a child and are our tradition now, and we claim them in this kitchen one more year.
He is 18 and he reads Isaiah while “Joy to the World” plays.
My daughter is on FaceTime from her college dorm room and we have her propped up at the end of the table.
This is our tradition and we have vowed to call each other every Sunday in advent if we can’t be together. The lighting of the advent candles together is something we have done since they were each babies.
We remember the anticipation that lasted hundreds of years.
The waiting, the expectation.
Knowing something is coming and asking over again:
How long do we have to wait?
My son lights the hope candle: the first Sunday of Advent message. We are quiet and still.
It’s hard to sit in the quiet.
After he reads and we pray, we all open our eyes.
I glance at my daughter there on the screen, now almost 21. She shares a birthday with Jesus.
I see her as a toddler.
I remember how we sat together in a a wooden pew on Christmas Eve, she in a white furry coat, on the eve of her 3rd birthday. A brown basket of candles was passed and we each reached for one. They were pure white, with circles attached to their bases to catch the drips. The lights dimmed. Flames were shared between us. We tipped towards each other, looking into each others’ eyes. “Silent Night” began to be softly sung by the choir and we joined our voices.
This girl had leaned in close to me.
She had whispered: “Is everyone going to sing Happy Birthday to ME?”
She thought the song was about her.
My eyes and cheeks had giggled softly, reined in only by the reverence of the moment.
I marveled at her.
“No, sweetie, we’re all singing Happy Birthday to Jesus.But we will sing to you very soon.”
I thought to myself:
“You are a miracle.
But HE is the biggest miracle. This is HIS song.”
She had reminded me that year.
It’s not about me.
We get up from the kitchen table, the hope candle burning.
I squint and strain to remember again.
This light marking the first week of waiting, of Advent, the candle my son lights and the faded words on the page of our family paper?
None of it has to do with my present struggles.
And nothing bought in a store can make anything sing inside of me.
This moment and song and candle are about a hope that we cannot purchase or muster up.
There is no need to scurry, nothing we need to DO today to receive hope.
We won’t miss anything by being still and silent and singing to Him.
And just maybe we will be found when we get lost in the light of His coming.
We are waiting for something meek and low in the dirty mess of a manger.
Someone that lays In the slivered wood.
The same wood that would become His cross.
Tonight, after we have extinguished the first candle, I take the Nativity figures out of the box that has been stored in the attic for more than 300 days.
I place the figures one by one there on the tray in the family room.
I study the faces and remember the place that surrounded baby Jesus:
3 men with gifts.
A teenage homeless girl.
A frightened father.
A stable lined with hay with no walls to keep out the night or the dark or cold.
The only things shining are Him and the star that marks His place.
It’s a reclaiming, remembering the season fresh.
“No, no” I whisper.
This hope can’t be bought or found for a bargain.
And it cannot be barricaded.
He is coming.
And the song that is playing in the background now is not about me.
It’s not MY song.