There’s No Hiding Sin

Have you been around a child with a poopy diaper? It’s no secret. Like with the Grinch, three words for a dirty diaper: “Stink. Stank. Stunk.” When my two-year-old walks by me after doing his business, I am immediately alerted to his condition. “You have a poopy diaper,” I exclaim. His immediate response, a resounding “No!” while running away. What’s his purpose in denying? He’d rather live with the mess and smell than take a moment away from play to let me fix him up all fresh again.

Don’t we like to say “No!” to God? Perhaps the Spirit points out something that stinks in our lives. We unwisely think that if we just keep playing at life, God will go away and ignore that foul odor that’s stuck all over us.

Listen! Just as a baby is helpless to clean himself, we are helpless to wipe that nasty sin away. But it’s so simple! Jesus can wipe us clean. He wants to wipe us clean. He’s chasing us down to wipe us clean. (Sometimes I even have to pin my two-year-old to the floor while I’m cleaning him up). And he’ll do it again and again, as many times as we need that cleaning.

Is this a crude analogy? Perhaps, but it holds special meaning at this time of year when we remember that Jesus came as a baby. Mary wiped him up many times. Isn’t that ironic? What a normal baby Jesus was, and yet he grew to ultimately wipe up the world.

There’s no hiding sin. Not even behind the mantra of “love”. For what type of love leaves a baby in a messy diaper, bottom festering red and sore? Love sees sin and does not ignore it. Love wipes sin, at the cost of the wiper.

Nesting for the Savior

When the time draws near, mothers prepare. It’s universal, from animals to humans. The urge to be ready. Mothers clean previously undiscovered corners of their houses. Mothers bake and cook and freeze food. They bargain hunt. They busy their hands with sewing, painting, knitting, crafting. They read, pouring knowledge into their striving minds: What to do if this or that happens, what to expect with breastfeeding, when to seek the doctor, what to tell a sibling…

Did Mary nest? Was she eagerly sewing clothes (with what do you dress the Messiah?)? Cleaning her house? Granted, her nesting was interrupted by Caesar’s call for a census and a last-minute trip to Bethlehem, but I think she put her house in order.

Advent is the season of nesting. Cleaning the cobwebs from the heart to make room for the Christ-child. Emptying out the clutter that has crept in when attentions were turned toward the routine of work, school, parenting.

Isaiah 40:3 A voice of one calling: “In the desert prepare the way for the LORD; make straight in the wilderness a highway for our God.

Let us all be like expectant mother this season, preparing the way for the Savior.

Childlike

Sometimes when I hear the testimonies of others, I think thankfully (and maybe guiltily?) of my easy life. How does a cancerous woman die with such grace? How does the married-but-not-married-woman bear years of abuse and neglect? What does it feel like to lose a parent, child, husband, embryo? I am grateful that my heart has been spared the big crevasses of pain that I’ve witnessed on other hearts.

But small things tire a heart out as well. I worry about my family and friends. I groan in frustration with daily failures of my character. I do not do what I want to do. I stress over weighty decisions about children and education, as if it all depends on my choice or wisdom.

How to stay fresh in a stale world? Be a child. Jesus called the little children to him, and I don’t think he meant only those young in age. To be young in heart is to trust, to climb in the lap of the Father. (I think that maybe Jesus called the little children to him because he was once a child. He thought like a child. We felt the frustrations of being young, as well as the trustworthiness and excitement in a small heart.)

If you have children, you understand what I mean when I say “grumpy time of day”. It’s always that late afternoon hour, and it makes dinner prep equal to the challenge of a marathon. My son wants to held during his cranky fest. Only that physical contact eases his foul mood.

Shouldn’t that be how it is with us and our heavenly Father? What’s carved your heart up lately? Maybe it’s just an irritable attitude, but all the same, you need to be held. So put your arms up to the Father. He’s not got dinner prep to worry about.

Do I fear the suffering I know will be in my future? Do I live delicately, hesitantly, fearing God’s goodness is nearing its end? No, I live like a child, reaching heavenward with little arms. I may be relatively scar-free, but not by my merit, but by His grace.

Come to the Manger (maybe even dressed as a shepherd or angel)

Every year I look for the supernatural in Advent like a magician pulling a rabbit from a hat. Say the right words, do the right activity and conjure up the true meaning of Christmas, and….dare I say?….a super spiritual status? I look for that hidden Narnia-like door into the Nativity. How is it that I let legalism steal in on my celebration?

When I was a child, Advent was simple. There were no internet resources dictating how to celebrate the incarnate God, how to explain to children the humble entrance of the King, how to shut-out the consumerism of our culture. There was only family, candles, and the Story. We didn’t even use pink and purple candles (I still don’t today). We had red and green candles atop the dining room / living room divider, sacred sentries keeping watch over dinner and television activities. Every year was the same. We lit a candle. We read part of the Christmas story. We acted it out. We acted it out again, enough times so each person could play each role. As children, we liked that predictability. It built anticipation. It encouraged participation.

I remember the pink wooden doll bed we used for a manger, and the green and white knit blanket we used for swaddling clothes – a blanket that had wrapped me warm as a baby.  I remember my dad in his maroon bathrobe as a shepherd. I remember singing We Three Kings as the “kings” marched down the hallway, my sister’s voice the loudest.

And I remember the Spirit illustrating His Story through us.

We were children, acting simple parts, and yet our worship at the manger was more than mere pretense. We may have been dressed as a young, frightened girl from Nazareth, or a rich wise sage, but the knees we bowed before the Christ-child were our own. In a mysterious way, we were shepherds, watching diligently over our daily activities of sports and homework, our lives interrupted by the Good News. And like those Bethlehem shepherds, we chose to journey and see, to leave behind the mundane for the profound.

So now it’s Advent again, and what do I want to do with my children? Light a candle. Read part of the Story. Enter in through action.

What do I gain from shouting into a darkened living room the words of the angel, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people”? Or by jealously sneering the words of King Herod, “Go and make a careful search for the child. As soon as you find him, report to me, so that I too may go and worship him.”

I gain perspective. I realize the parts of my own heart that have ulterior motives, like Herod. I gain glory. I wonder at the amazement of the shepherds as they hear first that the Savior of the world has made an obscure entrance. I gain commitment as I say, “I am the Lord’s servant. May it be to me as you have said.” I gain faith as I receive the words, “Nothing is impossible with God.”

Although my pre-schooler and toddler are far from stellar dramatists, they know how to pretend, to create story, to dress up. After all, Jesus called the children to come to him, and how better to come than entering into The Story, his coming.