Our first Sunday evening of Advent was perfect.
May I repeat?
I had the wreath displayed so nicely in a central location in our home.
I had the candles ready.
Our little plastic Mary and Joseph were preparing to embark on their journey toward Bethlehem (aka — our dining room).
I had the devotional ready — marked to the proper page.
I’d retrieved Allie’s Bible from her room, the passage marked, as well.
I had her little tree trimmed and her Advent devotional ornaments all laid out.
The Christmas story to be read after the devotion had been chosen. I couldn’t wait to read The Christmas Cat — a favorite.
“Allie, come and sit down. It’s Advent time.”
“Mooooo-m — can’t I finish this show?”
“No, dear. It’s almost bedtime, and we need to do our Advent devotion and read our Christmas story.”
With a “HUMPH,” Allie landed heavily on the chair beside me. Bill made his way, too, to the kitchen.
I began, “When Jesus arrived, he was Immanuel — which means ‘God among us.’ He lived and walked this earth — God in the flesh. Even though Jesus doesn’t still live and walk physically on this earth, what are some ways we still see him?”
“Allie, did you ‘SEE’ Jesus at all today?”
“Alrighty then. Why don’t we read the scripture,” I said, turning to her Bible…
OK — so let’s just not belabor all the ugly details.
From here, imagine moaning and much squirming in her chair. Add in some pouting for good measure, with a peppering of tears — a toss of the head and a deliberate folding of the arms.
Then imagine a frustrated mother — closing God’s Word a little too hard, then spitting on the HOPE candle in her attempt to blow it out (with emphasis).
“Ok — then come with me. Bedtime.”
“But I want to watch a show….”
“Absolutely NOT. It’s time for bed. If we’re not going to read the Advent devotion and scripture, then we certainly aren’t watching TV… or reading the Christmas story… or putting an ornament on your tree… and I guess Mary and Joseph will have to wait another day to begin their journey.”
By this time, we were upstairs. Allie was crying — wailing more like it…
“Brush your teeth…. Go potty… Get your PJs on…”
I barked orders like a drill sergeant, and I was getting on my own last nerve.
Finally, a still crying Allie was in bed — the magnitude of the consequences beginning to settle in her prostrate position. She’d covered her head fully with her blanket. Still, I could hear her muffled voice from beneath…
“But Momma, Mary and Joseph won’t arrive on time if they don’t start tonight.”
“Well, I’m sorry. Your choices and poor attitude are the reason they’re delayed.”
“But they’ll be early….” Allie moaned.
“No,” I said indignantly. “If they start late, they won’t be early. They’ll actually be late…”
Something ugly in me in that moment took pride in her error, and I gloated — having been given the opportunity to correct her.
I continued, softening just a little. “But I think they’ll be able to make up time. No worries.”
Silence from under the covers.
“Good night, Allie.”
Then, “But I wanted to do an ornament.”
“Again, I’m sorry. Your behavior is what ruined that opportunity tonight.”
Another pause. I’d already attempted to kiss her, had said a staccato-ed prayer, and had turned to walk out of her room when I heard from under the covers…
“Mommy, I’m sorry for how I acted. Can we please start again?”
And this is why I KNOW miracles happen at Christmas, because everything in me after the chaos of those fifteen minutes wanted to scream, “Hell NOOOOOOOO!” But instead, I heard myself say, without even the slightest hesitation…
“Yes, Allie, we can start again.”
I could hardly believe my ears. And then He must have spoken again, though He sounded a lot like me…
“And you know why? Because that’s why Jesus came. To give second chances.”
And a puffy-eyed Allie emerged from her covers, blew her nose and dried her tears.
We didn’t go back downstairs to sit by the wreath. We didn’t relight the HOPE candle.
We just sat down beside her tree and started over.
We talked about seeing Jesus — the Light of the world — all around us.
We read The Christmas Cat and placed the first ornament on her tree.
We smiled and laughed for those few minutes.
And that night, right on time, Mary and Joseph began their journey — Allie discovering them Monday morning.
Like I said, our first evening of Advent was perfect.
And it had nothing to do with me or with Allie or with any well-planned activity.
The miracle was simply Jesus.
It’s always Jesus.