An Unexpected Advent…

I received the below meditation by email today, and am unaware of the author’s identity yet, but just had to share it.  This year, I had ‘planned ahead’ and ‘this Christmas’ wasn’t going to be chaotic like the last 5 ones.  I was so proud of myself for doing one Advent activity (a first for our family, since before there seemed to always be either a baby due or some big event going on, making it impossible.)  I even got the presents wrapped a week early… another first.  And then, in the last week of Advent, I got slammed with a major migraine and illness at the same time, as well as several ill children.  I just wanted to cry yesterday when I realized that all my plans were ‘foiled’ and I had to cancel all the fun I had planned for this week.  All I could think was ‘what horrible timing!’  And then today I read the following meditation, and it spoke right to my heart. Enjoy…

 I was eagerly anticipating the beginning of this Advent.  I had a plan in place of how I was going to get closer to Jesus so that on Christmas morning, I would be able to lay the gift of a heart that completely belonged to Him at His manger.  I was going to clean up my act, and by Christmas, be a holier person.  But a seemingly unending cycle of sick children and unexpected circumstances altered my plans.  I tried to keep up with my spiritual reading after the kids had gone to bed, but someone unfailingly woke up in the middle of it and needed me NOW.  I tried to pray, but I found myself too exhausted to collect my thoughts.  I tried to be recollected, but I was too distracted with caring for my sick brood, too engulfed with the thoughts that there was something else that we were supposed to be doing.  I had activities, games, crafts, ideas picked out for them so that they would appreciate Christmas more.  All my ideas lay unfulfilled.  But my heart was filling with resentment. 
            A few days before Christmas, I sat on the couch, exhausted, dismayed, and realizing that I, seemingly, had gotten absolutely nowhere this Advent.  All my carefully thought out plans had gone out the window.  I looked at a picture of the Sacred Heart of Jesus and burst into tears.  The verse from the song, “The Little Drummer Boy” ran through my head: “I have no gift to bring”.  As I sat there wallowing in my own self-pity, I started thinking about Tommie de Paula’s “The Legend of the Poinsettia”.  My daughter had asked me to read it to her over and over again to her during her illness, but in my frustration I hadn’t grasped its meaning.  Like Lucida, the little girl in the story, I had planned on giving Jesus the best gift of all.  But when Lucida’s mother gets sick, the blanket she was helping her mother weave for the baby Jesus in the Christmas Eve procession sits there, untouched.  Everyone in Lucida’s village has been working on a gift for the baby Jesus, but now Lucida’s family will have no gift to present to Him.  So, all alone, Lucida tries to finish the blanket herself, but lacking the necessary skills she only succeeds in hopelessly tangling the yarn.  She brings it to a friend, but is told that there is nothing that can be done to fix the blanket in time.  Feeling as if she’s ruined Christmas, dejected Lucida does not attend the Christmas Eve procession with the rest of the villagers, but hides behind some buildings, watching everyone else process into the church with their gifts.  A mysterious old woman appears and announces to Lucida that her mother will be fine and urges her to go into the Church with the others.  When Lucida laments of her failure to bring her desired gift, the old woman reassures, “any gift is beautiful because it is given”.  Looking around, Lucida finds some weeds growing nearby and with a heart now focused on Christ instead of self, she lovingly places the weeds at the stable, ignoring the murmurings of the others watching her present baby Jesus with such an inappropriate gift.  Lucida prays, and when she looks up a miracle has occurred.  All of her weeds are now tipped by a beautiful red poinsettia.  As the villagers leave the church, they see that not only Lucida’s weeds have bloomed, but all the weeds in the whole town.
            As the story ran through my head, I realized that, like Lucida, I had my own plans for the gift I would bring Jesus.  But my plans were not His.  My failure to see His hand at work in the circumstances surrounding me resulted in my trying to “fix” things; but I tried alone.  Ending up with a heart filled with resentment, frustration and self-pity, I had ruined my Christmas gift.  I had nothing to bring.  But was the gift of a complacent heart what He wanted?  No.  Having nothing but the weeds of my own sinfulness and deficiencies, I can spread these out before Him.  Isn’t this why He took on our sinful human flesh?  Isn’t this what He wanted from me all along?  In our pride and sinfulness, we have no gifts worthy of Him.  So, He Himself provides the gift: the gift of His love.  We have only to offer that love back to Him along with our defects, and a miracle occurs.  With His love He is able to turn the weeds of our defects and shortcomings into beautiful flowers.  Like Lucida’s flowers, they will bloom not only for us.  I could have shown my children a wonderful example by my patience and acceptance of God’s will, meaning so much more than my own ideas and plans for them. 
            So, if your Advent has not been what you wanted it to be, take heart!  Like Mary, give Him the gift of your “fiat”.  Bring Him your weeds, give them with love and abandonment to His will, and watch them turn into flowers.  Not by your own merits and power, but by His.

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