The day was dark and dreary. The lights on the tabletop Christmas tree bounced off the wall. As I sat at the kitchen table with my Cricut machine and a plan for Advent, the world of possibilities seemed endless.
‘Tis the season for merry and bright, right?
My plan was to make an origami star each day of Advent. As I fold the stars, I’d pray for the people in my life, the community, and the kingdom of God. I’d pray to be the person others needed this season.
Advent would be a season of prayer focused on the light and love of God.
The plan was beautiful. That morning, I even found a birch tree branch at a local store to hang each star on. A perfect Pinterest Advent was about to unfold.
Or was it?
The Cricut machine did it’s work beautifully.
It cut perfect edges creating a star and even scored perfect fold lines. Then, I started to do my part. Folding this flat star into a three dimensional, five-sided object that would hang by a beautiful silver ribbon on a birch branch.
The promise of a prayerful, star-filled Advent was before me.
And then I read the instructions. (If you could call them instructions.)
Fold star in half.
Continue folding star in half.
Fold one edge inside the other and a star should magically appear.
Ok, YouTube, can you save me, please?
Sure, here’s a 30-minute tutorial on folding a five-point origami star…in another language.
Or the 40-minute tutorial on folding a five-point star with subtitles.
Or the 20-minute tutorial that told me to have paper and scissors on hand.
There has to be a balance between no instructions and instructions that make it possible to fold a star.
Total Pastor Fail
With my blood pressure rising and “swear word, swear word, swear word” emerging from my lips, my perfect Pinterest Advent was growing dim.
“This is a season of hope, love, peace, and joy,” I reminded myself. “This is supposed to be a prayerful time,” the voice in my head chided me.
An hour later, the promise of a birch tree branch lined with stars counting the days until Christmas ended in a crumpled pile of paper. A bit disgusted and a little bit of a grinch, I moved on to another project filled with hope.
I left the silly star fiasco and the beautiful picture I had painted in my head in the recycle bin of ideas.
“Remember Sara, you date ideas, you don’t marry them.”
“Sure I do,” the conversation with myself ended with a curt tone in my voice. “Not when I now have nothing for an Advent discipline ahead of me.”
Broken Pieces of the Season
The image of birch tree branch lined with different sizes and colors of stars hanging from silver ribbon didn’t go away. (Obviously.) But I wasn’t touching an origami star with a ten-foot pole…or my ten fingers.
On Sunday night, a colleague posted on Facebook a picture of an advent wreath with mismatched colors of candles. “Forgot to buy the advent candles” #adventfail
Or, as I tried to remind her, “A candle is a candle is a candle.”
On Monday a picture of headless nutcrackers appeared on Facebook and stories of lost “advent logs” (aka, Advent wreath) created by children emerged. Broken wings on angels and missing characters from nativities were quickly followed by, “Wait, I don’t even think I OWN a nativity beyond the lego one my kids have…and I’m not entirely sure it has all the pieces.”
I silently wondered if someone had hijacked baby Jesus to keep him nearby all year round.
But the reality was this: The broken, failed pieces of the season were piling up quicker than I could count.
“The season of Advent just began,” I thought to myself. All this brokenness. All these pieces. Who will pick them up? Who will put it back together? Who will guide the way?
“Maybe those aren’t the best questions,” I attempted to coach myself.
No, maybe they are.
Swipe Up and Find the Star
And then, as if telegraphed like a perfect Hallmark movie, my finger swiped through Instagram and a colleague posted a picture of an origami star he folded out of his young son’s coloring pages to top their hand-picked Christmas tree. I asked again,
“Who will pick up the pieces?”
“Who will mend our brokenness?”
“Who will guide the way?”
A child will.
Thank you, for the reminder, dear child. Thank you, for the gift, dear colleague.
The Promise of Christmas
Of course, that babe in a manger born over two thousand years ago to two unwed parents in the midst of a season of division and strife.
A child will guide the way. Of course, a child will usher in the light. A child will mend our brokenness and show us the beauty in the crumpled pile of recycled origami star art.
Sometimes the world preaches to the preacher. And, I confess, sometimes this preacher might mutter, “swear word. swear word” under her breath.
Sometimes our plans and perfect images are neither Pinterest perfect or Instagram worthy. So may I invite us to scratch those phrases from our vocabulary? Life is not lived in the places of perfect Pinterest crafts or Instagram worthy images…whatever those categories may mean.
So, no, the promise of Christmas is not a promise of perfection. It is a promise that God becomes one of us. The promise of Christmas is Jesus coming to us, entering our pain, brokenness, and messy pieces of life, wrapping his outstretched arms around us and holding us close to remind us we are his beloved. The promise of Christmas is light overcomes darkness.
My Christmas Wish
So, no, there are no origami stars hanging from birch tree branches in my home on this third day of Advent. There’s a tiny tabletop tree, slightly tilted reminding me where my journey began this season. And, there IS a star that shines brightly.
It’s the light I’ll be following this season. If some wise guys followed a star thousands of years ago that led them to the light of the world, I’m convinced it can lead us to him too.
May the messy, broken pieces of your every day, ordinary life become beautiful things God uses to remind you of his presence this season.
In the light of God’s love, may the crumpled papers and rising blood pressure moments give you a reason to breathe in deeply the peace of Christ.
In the midst of whatever #adventfail you’ve encountered already, may you find the message of hope that comes from an encounter with Jesus.
May whatever (im)perfect dreams you have for the season find meaning and purpose in Jesus.
May every messy moment this season remind you of the promise of Christmas:
“The Word became flesh and made his home among us.”– Jn 1:14