During Wednesday night church activities our little girl made an Advent calendar.
The calendar has 24 vacant spaces to affix a beautiful yellow star each day starting on December 1st and leading up to Christmas day. Each day she looks forward to placing that yellow star, just so, on that calendar. A couple of days ago, she came to me teary eyed. “Look Mama, there are four spaces left, and I only have three star stickers.” she said. I checked behind her in hopes that she had just missed one, but she did indeed only have three stickers left. I couldn’t help but feel a little disappointed for her. The thing she’d worked hard on, the thing she was anticipating fell short of what it was meant to be.
I looked in the drawer where the stickers were kept in hopes that it had just fallen out of the bag, but no; it’s not to be found. I told her that we would find another star sticker to fill that spot, and we will. But, it just won’t be quite the same. It won’t be perfect. I’ve looked at that advent calendar differently over the last couple of days.
Isn’t this just like life? It’s never quite right. What we work hard for and anticipate often falls short of what was meant to be. I’ve thought of many simple examples since our “one star short” advent calendar was noticed. It’s time to make the Christmas cookies, but your one egg short. The Christmas party is tonight, but you forgot to switch the clothes from the washer to the dryer so the Christmas outfit is sopping wet. You get home from the grocery store to realize the two things you actually went for didn’t come home with you, but you have $100 worth of other stuff instead. No, nothing is quite right. If I could just work a little harder, there would be enough. If I could just organize a little more, we could find our shoes. We’re seemingly always one star short.
And then that imperfect-missing star taunts us in much more serious ways as well. Like when you’re finally ready to enjoy retirement with your husband or wife, only to learn they have just a few months left to live. Or when your employer says you’re not needed anymore after years of giving countless hours to the company. Or when the phone call comes that forever changes your life. Or when you wake up with life looking bright and hopeful, but in a moment everything changes, and you go to bed that night to overwhelming darkness.
We live in a one star short world. We live in a not quite right world. Let’s be honest, we live in a really messed up world.
And yet, a star shone over Bethlehem that winter’s night. A baby was born. And in that birth we have hope. When you think about it, Jesus’ world was one star short as well. His parents weren’t married. He was born in a barn, and his first visitors were the Shepherds. This is all definitely not quite right. In fact, it was really messed up.
And yet, because of that birth, to those imperfect parents, in that imperfect barn, in that imperfect town, we have hope. Hope says, God is not done. Joy says, God is good. Peace says, God is present.
Maybe your world feels one star short today. Maybe it feels like many stars are missing. This I know to be true. God can work in all of the pain, in all of the suffering, in all of the fear, to bring good. He can work in and through all of the imperfection to bring perfection. He proved this in the manger. He proved it on the cross. Philippians 1:6 says, “being confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will be faithful until completion”. God is not done. He is good. He is present. And this is how we can have hope and joy and peace in this one star short world.