When Advent’s Not All Pretty and Perfect

It begins with inappropriate words uttered over the breakfast table, followed by a discussion of those inappropriate words, followed by a retraction of the promised ice cream outing to Ivanna Cone scheduled for that evening. Then here’s the crying and the wailing and the gnashing of teeth (by both child and mother).

And the next thing I know, the nativity has been rearranged on the coffee table.

Baby Jesus sits in the very center, but instead of the tiny clay wise men and lambs and Joseph and Mary gazing down at him in a close-knit circle of adoration, Rowan has moved each of them to the far corners and edges of the table, with their backs turned to Jesus.

Every lamb, every goat, every angel is turned away from Emmanuel.

“You know, honey,” I say to Rowan when I spot the new arrangement, “even when you turn your back on Jesus, he still lives in your heart.”

No response.

I don’t know what I was expecting. Maybe a revelation of sorts? Maybe I expected Rowan to look up at me all gracious and repentant, a flash of illumination written across his face. It’s Advent, after all. Isn’t Advent supposed to be pretty and perfect? All glittery and shiny and beautiful? A season of anticipation and awaiting and love?

But he didn’t. Rowan turned his back on me, too, and walked away.

There I was, poised to point my finger and start ranting and raving, when I caught another glimpse of those wise men and the sheep turned away from Jesus. And it hit me hard. I do it, too. I’m no different than Rowan. I turn my back on Jesus, too. I walk away from him. I can’t point my finger at Rowan without first pointing at myself.

In the end, the lesson I intended for Rowan is really meant for me. I need the reminder, too – that Jesus is Emmanuel. God with us. No matter what.

I need to remember that even when I turn my back on him, he still lives in my heart. He doesn’t abandon me. He doesn’t walk the other way.


God with us.


 Have you ever had a revelation like that — did you ever suddenly realize that God is with you, no matter what? 

Click here to get posts in your email in-box. Click here to “like” my Facebook Writer page. Thank you!

Linking with Jennifer and Emily today:

Subscribe for regular updates to the blog or my monthly newsletter, The Back Patio, by email.

* indicates required

Choose one or both:


  1. says

    Oh, Michelle. With my kids this is daily. Here I go imparting a great life lesson and asking out loud: “where did you learn to talk/act/yell/say/behave/think that way???” only to realize as the words are coming out of my mouth: “they learned it from YOU” and be humbly silenced. Children are sent to us, I am convinced, for many purposes, one of which is to make us better people so we can make them adults worthy of the call of Christ. Humbling experience, this parenting.

    • admin says

      I know, I know…I didn’t want to see myself here either. It was kind of a shock, really. But I needed that eye-opener (my kids are good at helping me with that!).

  2. says

    Oh , how I love this post Michelle. And I just got a kick out of that picture. ANd yes, I want to cry because although I see ohers doing it I am guilty as well. ANd He so patiently reminds me too…Praise Him who is Faithful. I am so grateful He is…even when I am not. Love this, so much.

  3. says

    I love this Michelle. I’m not sure how you kept a straight face! If I’m honest, more often than not I am the one who needs to learn the lesson. My self-righteous little self wants to point out everyone else’s short-comings when mine are staring me right in the face. I think, perhaps, the Father intends for that to happen. :-)

  4. says

    Humble and honest. been there as a mother way too often. Love Rowan’s artistic arrangement showcasing his emotions. wow I smiled then breathed it in. Wow. One reason I love Psalm 139 – no matter where I run or hide, God is there. Great post Michelle. Praying you have a wonderful Christmas.

  5. says

    I have lost some pieces to my Nativity scene. I don’t know where they went. Jesus is still there, but some of the characters have disappeared.

    There’s a revelation in that too!

    • says

      I’ll have to ponder the metaphorical significance of that david – maybe that there is only one true one needed ro complete the picture ? If jesus goes missing though you had better call a hotline!

  6. says

    Yes. This Advent has only been Advent-y in my private time with God and on Sunday mornings. Lots of weeping and gnashing of teeth. Then yesterday, I heard the Canadian Tenors’ version of “Hallelujah.” It was an Emmanuel moment. All for $1.29.

    Merry Christmas, Michelle.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *