My babies have long since arrived. Some of them have been around long enough to grow beards, for heaven’s sake, so you’d think the nesting instinct would have passed, and yet for some reason the month of December has always felt like a nesting month to me. I want to clean and sort and get rid of the extra. A preparation, I suppose, for the New Year.

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Or maybe it’s a bit of something I (we) share with Mary. A mutual getting ready for birth. I don’t know, maybe not, but I do know the urge to clean and purge and prepare comes over me this time of year.

I can’t put up the tree until I clean the space. I can’t get out the ornaments until I dust all the surfaces. I can’t start the baking until I clean the kitchen. 

Is it just me?

And yet, really, how much nesting did Mary have a chance to do? How much preparation can one make when there isn’t a home, or a baby’s room, or a crib, even?

This Advent season, as I’m thinking of Mary and the coming birth and the waiting, I’m trying to think more about manger-ing than I am about nesting.

I’m thinking about mothers who don’t have sweet matching bedroom sets to bring their babies home to. I’m thinking about babies born in garbage dumps or back alleys or … stables. I’m thinking about children who arrive without warm clothes, or any clothes. I’m thinking about mothers making do.

Yet I’m thinking about all these things while I’m warm in my kitchen, baking out of the abundance of my full cupboards, while the lights twinkle sweetly on my beautiful Christmas tree.

This is the tension of Advent for me. This is the mighty clashing discord that one baby brings into the world with his birth. This is the juxtaposition with which I struggle, me with my very much and they with their very little.

He didn’t arrive into preparedness and beauty and comfort. He just arrived. His mother birthed him when it was time, and wrapped him with what she had, and slept him in what she could find.

Sometimes, manger-ing teaches me, it all just happens, even without (or in spite of) my vicious planning and preparing and stressing. And as the needs arrive, I mother into them.

I mother into the world, as best I can. Sharing, nursing, swaddling, holding, feeding, hushing … manger-ing. 

This is what Advent is speaking to me today.

Grace.

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