We stand in a through-way of our small home each night. On the way hangs a tin panel with 25 small tin pockets like little half buckets. Inside each pocket, my six year old daughter stash a bit of paper with different prayer intentions. Our family advent practice this year, we gather together, lite a candle, my daughter fishes a bit of paper from the pocket and we focus a prayer on the intention. Simple, honest, prayerful.
Well, not so simple. We are a family, three small children, school, jobs, cats to feed, dinner to make, teeth to brush, dishes to clean, laundry to fold, gifts to find and sleep to have.
These past few nights, I notice how hard it is to concentrate on our intention. We stand in the through-way, candle lit. I am holding my toddler son trying to keep him from reaching the flame. My daughter’s inertia keeps her precariously close to touching the flame with the sleeve of her baggy polyester flammable pajamas and my new infant daughter roots aggressively in my wife’s arms. Dinner dishes remain on a dirty dinner table. There is one child to put to bed, another after that and a houseful of small chores to do before we both get to bed at a late hour.
It is hard to concentrate and send a meaningful prayer to our intentions. It feels awkward and inconvenient. Our prayers for these intentions too, the poor, the outcast, the ill, the marginalized, the children, our friends, our family, our passed on loved ones, the Earth. These are things I feel strongly about praying strongly for. And I feel so distracted in the moment.
But I get a chance late at night to read. I read a translation of the book of Luke. I have been thinking of the Christmas miracle as an Encounter wih the divine. The beginning theme of the Way of Jesus of Nazareth. That God comes. And Spirit comes. It is messy and inconvenient. The birth of Jesus happened on a through-way. Everyone had chores to do, places to be, things to take care of and yet, God came in the middle of all that and came humbly. Spirit comes in the middle of things. God comes in the muddle of things.
The Way of Jesus of Nazareth is not one of convenience. There may not be time to concentrate or stop and wait for a more appropriate time for the door to be open. An encounter with the divine will happen in the middle of chaos when there is cleaning to be done diapers to change. There is controversy and adversity and the Spirit breaks through all of that.
My prayers to be aware and ready to receive the moments of the Encounters.