Rush, rush rush, there's so much to do. Things to clean, to bake, to buy, to wrap. There is an Advent wreath to light each night as children sit with rapt attention. There are Advent devotionals to be read aloud, guaranteed to turn all hearts towards the Reason for the season.
Yet reality sets in. Three days before Christmas, you realized that you forgot dear Aunt So-and-So. The mail comes and in it you find cards from people you didn't send a card to this year. The Advent candle is unlit more often than not. When you actually do light the candles, you spend more time keeping little hands from harm than you do in quiet reverence. The Advent devotions which seemed so simplistic and heart-felt in the store, lose much of their meaning when read aloud to little bodies that don't want to sit still.
This is all enough to make you throw in the towel and pack up the Nativity. Bring on the heathens! Let's forget these special, sacred moments and go buy bigger stockings for Santa!
Granted, some families do well at keeping things simple for Christmas. But it is possible to make even simplifying a complex task.
Finding out that your good intentions have turned into yet another crazy Christmas can make you feel like a failure. Despite all of your preparations, life intervenes and you are caught unready. Yet don't allow what you haven't done to keep you from Christmas. Instead, think about what it must have been like for Mary.
That first Christmas found a young girl perhaps feeling very much unprepared. I'm sure she had spent time thinking about how things would be when she had her first baby. She probably envisioned the community midwife, or family, to assist her during the birth and right after. With Joseph being a carpenter, Mary might have well imagined Joseph lovingly building a cradle for the baby. In addition to the regular nervousness of a first-time mother, Mary knew that this wasn't an ordinary baby. The stakes were much higher.
I'm sure that God followed the rules of His creation and had a nine-month gestation for His Son. Mary had advance notice for the birth. But where did she find herself during labor? In a barn, in a town far away from family. Mary found herself birthing the baby with only Joseph to help. The same Joseph that Mary hadn't slept with yet. Forget any virginal modesty about the first time your husband sees you.
There was no experienced figure to assist and reassure. There wasn't even a familiar bed or surroundings. There was a barn, most likely a dark and dirty cave. And who should come to visit after the birth, but shepherds? Shepherds who weren't highly regarded in their culture.
None of this was a surprise to God. He knew His Son would be born in Bethlehem, in those exact circumstances.
God worked just as He intended, in circumstances that probably felt very inadequate to the people involved. He still does today.