By Rebekah Theilen
What is this light so fair, so tender Breaking upon our wond’ring eyes? Never the Morning Star so radiant Followed his course o’er eastern skies.(What is This Lovely Fragrance, arr. John Rutter)
For ten Advent seasons we walked the same sidewalks. With the school on our right and the church on our left, we couldn’t have asked for a more fitting location. It helped on the days when relief felt far. The long wait began in the glow before sunrise, waking with children, completing a full day’s work by mid-morning. Bedtime for babies was 7PM, and keeping up with the times wasn’t something I was good at. I wanted the light, the love, the magic, but I sometimes resented the lateness of church. The shepherds rejoiced in the nearness of God.
The steeple bell tolled at half past seven. I’d open the door and let December rush in. To shed extra weight I’d walk to church coatless, relying on the smallest of them all to keep me warm, the baby bundled up in his blanket and jammies. I’d tell the ones running to stop or slow down. Sometimes they heard me. Sometimes they didn’t. All I could do was hold my breath and pray no one tripped or fell or crashed into an unsuspecting congregant heading into the evening service. The night was dark, cold and mysterious, but we didn’t have far to go.
It only took seconds to pass by the manger. The nativity set was alive in the grass, where angels shivered and all the earth’s Treasure slept close enough to lay your eyes on. By no means do I wish to romanticize the past with all it’s memories and trappings, but here I am. With Thanksgiving behind me, the Christmas storage tub in front of me, something inside of me can’t help but dig out the box of the hopes and the dreams. These are the wonders deeply hidden in God’s gifts. You walk the path once, then get to enjoy it the rest of your life.
Those struggles brought me so much hope! That whole time I thought I was doing it for the kids, hoping one day they’d have their own stories to tell. But every year the gift of the journey was mine. For thousands of years the people had waited. From Abraham and Sarah to the carpenter and Mary, the story of God is full of surprises, and yet, for Christ to come to us is no surprise at all. For what has God done other than keep His true and certain word? The letter to the Hebrews tells us, “We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure.”
I don’t know what it was, the parsonage living, the kids being little, the small town traditions, but Advent won the prize. Our family has moved now, closer to home. Another mother walks along the sidewalk that was ours. Sometimes on our Sunday morning drive to get to church, I look out the countryside window and think of her. I wonder how she's doing, how she’s growing, if the peach tree flourished like it did that summer in the year before we left. I’d tell her not to be surprised if Advent fills you up and keeps you going, for that’s what hope is meant to do.
Love has come and never will leave us! Love is life everlasting and free Love is Jesus within and among us Love is the peace our hearts are seeking Love! Love! Love is the gift of Christmas; Love! Love! Praise to you, God on high! ("Love Has Come," tune: "Bring a Torch Jeanette Isabella")
Rebekah spends her days living life alongside her husband and children. She enjoys reading, homeschooling, and every once in a great while, chasing after the wind.