If you are following along with the “Partners in Prayer” Advent devotion guide, you’ll see that today’s reflection is about the litany of ‘I’m not ready’ that we’re all supposed to be sharing right about now. That piece was extracted from a longer blog post that I wrote two advents ago. Here’s the whole thing. I’m reading it today, in the middle of moving and chaos, and thinking how much it still applies. I’m also thinking, hey…a self care day sounds pretty great right about now!
I took a self-care day today. Took the kids to a baby sitter, got a massage, got my hair done, had lunch, did some light shopping, generally piddled about. In the course of this day, I encountered stylists, receptionists, check-out personnel, waitresses…you know the scene. So let’s say in the course of this day, no less than 5 people asked me if i was ready for Christmas. The drill is supposed to go something like this:
“Are you ready for the holidays?”
“Are you kidding me?? I am nowhere NEAR done shopping, nothing is wrapped, my house is a wreck, I have to work every day between now and Christmas Eve, and my kids have something planned every night this week!”
“Ha ha ha. I know, right? Me too, it’s crazy. I am SOOOO busy.”
“Ha ha ha. I know, right? Every year, I say i’m not going to do this again, and yet… here we are.”
“I know, right?”
This is the dialogue of a shared cultural experience. This is meant to be a bonding moment. A point of connection (or of earning one’s tip through a sympathetic gesture of understanding).
It is kind of like seasonal music, seasonal flavored coffees, and seasonal scented candles; a background accent that comes attached to these December days. They are small comforts in the form of the familiar. But I find some of the elements of this line of discourse more than a little troubling.
Thing 1 that makes me twitchy about this conversation–do you ever hear this banter taking place among MEN? “Oh, i know, i’ve just got so much BAKING and DECORATING left to do this week, I mean, when am i supposed to get my NAILS done and get little Gabby some new tights to go with her Christmas dress?!”
Please. According to the movies, commercials, and ad campaigns that tell us what Christmas is really about, the men get to show up, happy and oblivious, for presents, turkey and football. They have neither a worry nor a passing moment of gratitude for the mothers/wives/sisters/daughters who have contrived to make everything so lovely and meaningful. In mainstream media, this is a season for women; created for and marketed to women who, let’s be honest, do 90% of the shopping in most houses. If we aren’t at least a little bit aware of the inequity in all of this, then we are just asking to have our money taken away from us. Not to mention our dignity.
And I’m not offended by you, fellas. I’m offended FOR you. (Most of) you should be given way more credit than the hapless Christmas Eve mall-shopping maniac that our culture has deemed standard fair. You are thoughtful givers, you are grateful husbands, sons and fathers, you are discerning businessmen, teachers and pastors who need some good news from all this chaos as much as the girls do.
And yet, the marketing machine is telling you that you don’t have to get ready for anything. Some woman will do it for you. I mean, you know better than this, right? You know that you still have to buy us presents…right??
Also…wait, this part is for everybody…Also, we realize that the REAL thing we’re all getting ready for is Jesus, right? THat all this chaos and spending and rushing around is just about our own baggage? I think we all know that. But at least once a season, we need to stop and say it out loud.
Still, there’s a gender conundrum to how we spend our waiting time; and how we let the culture shape it for us. The men are told, by signals large and small, that Christmas will come for them, wrapped up in a shiny and color-coordinated bow, even if they don’t lift a finger in preparation. Even if they sleep or work or play right up until Jesus comes. All the while, the women are reminded that no matter HOW hard they work/hurry/shop/bake/wrap/worry/clean/decorate/entertain… they will NEVER BE READY.
It will never be enough.
So, who’s really coming up a few reindeer short here? The boys or the girls? Is it worse to have to do everything? Or to be asked to do nothing?
Either way, nobody is getting much of a real Advent season in the measure of these extremes. We’ve all got work to do. We’re all called to wait, to watch, to wonder… And maybe part of that is about preparing for celebrations with friends, family, and church folks. It’s a busy time.
But you’ve also got to know. When. To.
And know when to say, you know what? We are none of us ready. Ever. Nobody is ever, in human form, truly prepared for the grace, the joy, the earth-shaking justice, the glory, the radical truth, the all-consuming love, that is coming for us. We are never, in this life, completely whole in the way that is ready to welcome the Christ child into our midst.
But then again…that’s why he comes. To silence all the world’s messages of ‘not enough,’ to diminish all of our rigid gender roles, economic divides, racial tensions and everything else that seperates…and to make of us all something new. Something connected and whole.
That’s what we’re waiting for.
And, believe it or not, we’re ready.
Maybe there will come a time, sometime before midnight on Christmas Eve, to put down the checklist and, like Mary, say “Here am I, a servant of the Lord.” A time to recognize that the goofy charicatures on the Target and Walmart and Lowe’s commercials (men and women alike) do not have to be us. A time for all God’s folks to say, ‘we may not be exactly prepared. But we are ready. We are willing participants in this drama, even if our own offerings are not quite wrapped or baked yet.”
Next time somebody asks if you are ready for Christmas, say simply, “Yes! I am.” It will blow their freakin mind. And may even open the door for some small talk. Life-giving, earth-shaking, door-opening, seasonal small talk. With a sprinkle of cinnamon on top.