Every Tuesday the garbage truck rattles down our small side street and comes to rest right outside our bedroom window. It grinds and clunks and empties the cans using a loud lever that’s followed by the sound of falling rubbish. Not that long ago someone had the unfortunate idea that this task was best accomplished around 4am. So now my Tuesday mornings start rather early and it’s rare I return to a deep sleep.
Today my mind was wandering. I sat up in bed and noticed my toddler was nuzzled right between us, snoring lightly. I could feel his warm baby breath on my arm and I knew his presence was proof that it had been another long night with a child who doesn’t yet sleep for more than a few hours at a time. It was dark outside and I pulled my legs to the side of the bed. It felt wintry in our bedroom and the frigid cold stung my skin. I wept. Not just slight tears, but deep gut wrenching sobs of sadness. My vision blurred as my eyes filled with wet emotion and my throat ached. I grabbed a blanket and muffled the sound, refusing to disturb my sleeping family. I’m not entirely sure why I cried today. It was a culmination of disappointments. Opportunities that seem missed. Conversations that left me scratching my head and feeling let down. We’ve invested so much effort, prayer and faith, and the dreams haven't materialized as expected. Today it was as if hope had been crumpled, tossed in the trash and was heading down the street in the back of that garbage truck.
We all dream.
We imagine that our longings have a home and that one day we’ll stumble upon it and find ourselves residing there, crawled up by the fireplace feeling more content that we can imagine. Some days I think I’ve found it, keys in hand and feet on the door step. This dream-home feels like such a long time coming, maybe my entire life and puff, just like that it’s gone. The house slowly fades and I realize I need to begin the journey from the very beginning all over again. The effort. The faith. The vulnerability and courage. I’m left empty and homeless. Then along comes disappointment, my greatest nemesis. Haunting me, reminding me that its futile to hope and dream, because dream homes don’t exist and never will for me. It’s the voice that says nothing is certain, nothing will be different this time, this is your lot in life.
The kids finally woke, the day began and my head throbbed from stolen sleep and a lamenting heart. I remembered it was the first day of Advent. The December days when we count down to Christmas, a time of reflection, waiting and joyful anticipation. I felt a glimmer of hope sneak back in to my heart. Advent reminds me that there is certainty amidst disappointment – Emmanuel God with us. He came as a baby, He will come again and He will meet me in every moment of every day. Some things may slip away and leave us feeling empty, but Christ lives in us and makes a home in us. That’s the joy of Christmas. God chooses to fill a manger, inhabit a barren world and dwell in our hearts. Advent is a time to allow the hollow and barren places of our lives, the places that feel discouraged and disillusioned, experience the wonder of joyful expectancy. Let it soak in. Permeate every small corner, and rewarm the places you feel disappointed or abandoned. Allow Christ to stir your dreams with expectancy and hope. Emmanuel, God with us. He won’t disappoint