There is a tiny guard who casts a fierce shadow who stands between us and anything worthwhile. His name is The Right Way. You see, The Right Way is a cruel taskmaster. There are parts of me that have been liberated and no longer live under his tyranny. But other parts still stand at a trembling attention when he barks, "You better get this right."
When it came to Advent my old adversary The Right Way came knocking. The problem is there are dozens of good Advent traditions and loads of variations of each. I was agonizing over this, as if there is some magic combination that will instill Christmas joy and reverence in the hearts of my children forevermore.
I suspect you would never intend this, but this is what happens. When you attempt to live by your own religious plans and projects, you are cut off from Christ, you fall out of grace. Meanwhile we expectantly wait for a satisfying relationship with the Spirit. For in Christ, neither our most conscientious religion nor disregard of religion amounts to anything. What matters is something far more interior: faith expressed in love. - Gal 5:4-6 MSG
How about that. Turns out there is no magic combination, just faith expressed in love. The cure to my Advent-angst was simply picking something and trying it. Or, as my wife wonderfully suggested, picking two things and mix-matching them: pulling Jesse Tree symbols out of the numbered pouches of the Advent calendar. Take that you lame old legalism! Simple action in love is like a kung-fu chop to the jugular of The Right Way.
So the other night we had a bunch of friends over. We lit a candle in the Advent wreath and did a Jesse Tree reading and sang carols while kids danced with streamers across the living room. While I didn't understand all the steps of what we're doing--What do the candle colors in the wreath represent again?--I did know this: we were turning our hearts towards our Maker and anticipating the coming Christ. The strong arm of The Right Way was overcome by the gentleness of love and community and simple action.
Someone said that children are so free because they don't have an inner list of all the things that could go wrong. Father God, give us hearts like children, free to make mistakes and stumble into wonder.