I was the one upfront last Sunday, looking so put together next to my husband and our three boys, all five of us coordinated. When the choir finished "Hark the Herald Angels Sing" we took the steps behind the pastor, then gathered round the advent wreath waiting for our cue. The boys were still as stone. I didn't dare breath.
Then came the moment Pastor Scott said our name and the ten year old began reading Matthew 1:18-24, how the Holy Spirit had come to Mary and she conceived the Savior of the world. His high pitched voice rang clear as his childlike faith. The nine year old brother went to light the candle, but it was too high so I took the lighter and did it for him and gave him a kiss, like an apology. That's when I noticed the smile. First his, then mine, and before I knew it I saw my husband smiling down at our six year old who was praying, also grinning, telling God how thankful he is for our church and everyone there that morning. Then he thanked God for sending us Jesus, Amen.
Amen and it was done.
We walked back down to our little pew, rustling hair and patting backs for a job well done. We were smiling and the congregation gave their smiles back to us. So I finally took a deep breath, and a tear rolled fat and heavy down my cheek because I had been SURE my kids were going to burn the church down that morning - which really isn't far-fetched, for those of you who know our boys.
We didn't have extended family with us and all of our close friends from church were in their Sunday School classes or helping in the children's ministry during that service. So, I asked a complete stranger to take my camera and snap a few photos of our family that morning. So thankful he said yes and thankful for this captured moment with smiles, because all this threatened to come undone the night before.
They'd had a miserable night with a babysitter as my husband and I enjoyed a long overdue date night. One boy in particular was making mischief, riling up another; both of them wide awake when we came home at 10:30pm. How they cried when they saw us pull up and into the drive. Tearfull they promised, "But we were trying to be good."
The baby sitter looking surprised.
When I left to drive our sitter home I watched my husband from the rear view mirror turn from the porch and walk inside. His shoulders sagged heavy and low. I kept apologizing as I drove the dark streets. By the time I returned home I felt like an utter failure, then I felt mad, then I wanted chocolate.
I found my man in our bathroom. For a while we stood side by side at the counter brushing teeth and scrubbing our faces with extra vigor. When we tucked in together beneath the covers he gently asked, "How can we stand up there tomorrow morning like our family has it all together?"
"Grace, " the word came fast. "Grace."
It was the Christiany thing to say, so he shrugged in agreement and tugged for more blankets because weary hearts need comfort. After another disgruntled moment he went on, "I feel like their consequence should be that they can't go up on stage and light the advent candle tomorrow but I know that's wrong."
"Grace," I said it again. "God didn't come because our kids are perfect. He came because of sin. Our little sinners are the perfect people to read about a Savior, to thank God for His gift of salvation, and to let their light shine because they've been saved."
"But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us." - Romans 5:8
If you were in our church last Sunday morning, or any church for that matter where a mom and dad and a couple kids in red velvet dresses, patent leather shoes, argyle sweater vests or khaki pants stood up front to light the advent candle, and you felt less than worthy because your family isn't so put together... know deep down deep that we are all just sinners saved by Grace. None of us deserving. All of us forgiven.
Every one of us loved. Every one of us a walking talking testimony of why Jesus came to earth.
"For God so loved the world, that He gave His one and only son, that whoever believes in Him will not perish but have everlasting life." - John 3:16
You are perfectly flawed. Light the candle and let your light shine.
Your kids are perfectly flawed. Light the candle and let your light shine.
Your marriage is perfectly flawed. Light the candle and let your light shine.
Your childhood was perfectly flawed. Light the candle and let your light shine.
Your present circumstances are perfectly flawed. Light the candle and let your light shine.
"For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord.
Live as children of light." - Ephesians 5:8