Epiphany has arrived. Lent is just around the corner. Yet I am still stuck in Advent. Early in Advent I had a sense that there was something I was preparing for...something that I would receive this Advent / Christmas season. It was an Advent of snow storms and stomach flu. I missed the third and fourth Sundays of Advent. I could only attend one of our Christmas Eve Services. But still, it was a wonderful Advent. Let me explain...
One thing I've learned as a step-mother is that is is not easy to be a family when you only spend 6 weeks of the year together. Ben's winter visit always falls over Christmas, which is a wonderful time to be together. Yet it is also a busy and stressful time for a pastor's family. During past Christmases I've always felt torn between family time and church responsibilities. Make Christmas cookies or write my sermon. Wrap presents together or bring communion to our shut-ins. There are many expectations of the pastor at Christmas and these expectations can be a drain on my energy. In the end, I don't feel like I've been able to give my best to either my church or my family.
But then came the storm. Everything 'church' was postponed a week. One less sermon to write. And then... the stomach flu. All expectations for a 'perfect' Christmas melted away. The fourth Sunday of Advent and Christmas Eve passed with my only attending one service. When I was feeling better I was able to give my attention to those I love the most ~ Gary and Ben ~ and it was a wonderful gift. I received the gift of family this Advent and I am so thankful.
No family is easy. Joseph certainly knew this as step-father to the Son of God. Yet we are led to believe that he and Mary and Jesus settled into family life as best as they knew how. That was what we were able to do this season... settle into a family-ness. I think I've learned something this Advent... something I hope not to forget.... something I hope to carry with me through Epiphany and Lent and Easter and Pentecost... and even into next Advent.