Saturday morning I took off my wedding ring to make gingerbread cookies with the kids. Given their ages – 6, 5 and 3 years old – you can imagine there were a handful of times I wondered if the effort was worth the memory-making tradition.
Later in the day, when I went to get my ring from the kitchen cabinet, I saw that my husband had left his there, too, while he worked on one of our snowmobiles, a project that hadn’t gone as smoothly as he had hoped.
I saw our rings next to clean-but-still-spotted glasses, underneath a mishmash of collected coffee mugs, above the pile of kids’ artwork and mail to sort through, a boxed wooly bear my son is keeping as a “pet,” and coffee that had been reheated multiple times …. Not exactly the picture per-fect moment as captured on a wedding wall-hanging in our bedroom – my hand on top of my husband’s, our rings bright and glimmering.
As I put the ring back on, I could see it needed a good cleaning. But I couldn’t help thinking that, even scratched and well-worn, our rings looked beautiful and truth-filled. They were there telling exactly the story they are supposed to – of effort and expectations, joys and hurts, celebrations and frustrations.
They were speaking Advent to me, loud and clear. And I was reminded of what Advent prepares us to celebrate and receive. My wedding ring makes sense only in light of my marriage, just as Advent makes sense only in relation to Christmas.
The son of God does not come riding on a chariot in all his glory with glistening trumpets; he comes in the most ordinary way and under mortifying circumstances.
It can be so easy to stay caught up in wanting Christmas to be perfect, shimmering, shiny and all in order – but for what purpose? My ring is supposed to be dirty and a little scratched because I wear it to clean toilets, bathe our kids, pay bills and make meals … except gingerbread cookies.
Wearing that ring and what it represents still takes my breath away.
Does the Christ child in the manger take my breath away? Do I try to hide my scratches and dirty patches from him? Do I celebrate my bumps and bruises because I can recognize them for what they are – signs of a life lived, not a righteousness put up on a shelf?
As beautiful as the wedding photograph is on my wall, and as beautiful the Nativity scene is with smiling baby Jesus and glowing Mary – that’s not the whole picture. And that’s not what this sea-son of expectation and rejoicing is about.
It’s about the ordinary in daily life, the Lord that unassumingly bursts into history and is laid where animals feed. It is about outcasts and foreigners and the first to draw near and allow their lives to be radically changed, forever.
For me, this Advent has been less about my preparation for and anticipation of Christmas and more about Christ’s anticipation and longing to come into my life in a new way – less about the wedding and shiny rings and more about the marriage and the life-lived-and-made in everyday life.
We need to remember that Emmanuel is God-with-us, the Almighty who left his throne to come to us, to become accessible to us, to seek us out because He just can’t help but draw near, to comfort and console us in our need, to accompany and rejoice in our victories and to whisper love through countless quiet actions and inspirations.
This Christmas, I am finding Christ in my kitchen cupboards, reminding me to discover him and rejoice in His grace in the present moment and our family’s efforts to spend time and make memories together. He is reminding me that he shunned shimmery and shiny that first Christmas … in favor of simple shepherds and angels praising God’s goodness where it was to be found.
Where is He waiting to encounter you this Christmas? What are the good intentions and grace-filled moments where He has been waiting to be unwrapped and allowed into your daily life?