There is nothing special about my advent table. The table itself was a thrift store find some years back. It has hosted many grandkids’ art projects, which is why I cover it with a $7 tablecloth from Big Lots. Our small washer/dryer combo lives next to the refrigerator, hidden behind an ingenious sliding pantry made of wood, which means that several times a week, the kitchen becomes a laundry room and the table a folding station. In our small home, the only dedicated spaces are the dog beds and the fish tank, so, on any given day, the table holds bags of groceries, whatever tool my husband decides to leave behind, my daughter’s textbooks, and sundry piles of random stuff. But in the dark hour before dawn, the table is mine.
On the shelf above sits a nativity stable, also a thrift store treasure. I click on its small yellow light bulb and light the candles, which gives me just enough light to read by. My favorite Gregorian chant album Voices: Chant from Avignon plays quietly; my bible, journal, and advent devotional sit stacked beside me.
The table is set – for two.
Some mornings, I come hungry to this table, other times not. Sometimes I come with my heart overflowing with love, and other times I am distracted and dry as a bone. At those times, I repeat the blunt words of Teresa of Avila:
Oh God, I don’t love you, I don’t even want to love you,
but I want to want to love you!
And that is enough because he is always here, faithfully waiting for me, for all of us. He already knows what is in our hearts and accepts us as we are. He’s not looking for perfection; he wants us to show up, lean in, and make eye contact. I may squirm under his pure gaze, his perfect word may trouble my selfish, sinful heart, but there is transformative power in this sitting together, in this quiet waiting.
I bow both head and heart as I read this passage from Psalm 103:
The Lord is compassionate and merciful,
slow to get angry and filled with unfailing love.
He will not constantly accuse us nor remain angry forever.
He does not punish us for all our sins;
he does not deal harshly with us, as we deserve.
For his unfailing love toward those who fear him
is as great as the height of the heavens above the earth.
He has removed our sins as far from us as the east is from the west.
The Lord is like a father to his children,
tender and compassionate to those who fear him.
For he knows how weak we are; he remembers we are only dust.
Outside the window, snow falls heavily as morning breaks, transforming the world.
I extinguish the candles with a whisper; Immanuel, God is with us.