For most people, even a week or two in Alaska is a pipe dream. It’s a long trip, getting there takes forever, it’s expensive, and the sun is on a completely different schedule.
Yet we lived there. We did it. We dared to move clear across the country and start over. We were quickly welcomed by the locals and fell in love with the community. But the first few days didn't go as planned.
Lindsey stood in the grocery store and cried on the very first day. A box of Lucky Charms for $6.79 was more than double the price back home. Not to worry, though. One of the locals we connected with before arriving was going to be out of town all winter and promised to fill our deep freeze with salmon, moose, halibut, bear, and caribou. It would be hundreds of dollars worth of food and would carry us through until spring at the very least. Only, when we arrived at our new house, she had already left town and had obviously forgotten. The freezer was empty.
So we put a call out on Facebook to complete strangers to ask for food. It was humbling, to say the least, but our little seaside community came out in full force. In two days, we met approximately forty families who understood that things sometimes doesn’t go as planned. It’s the way of life in Alaska. We were given canned goods, fresh meat, veggies, jams, and homemade bread. Alaskans fish all summer to stock their freezers, so they were giving out of their own supplies.
My favorite memory from those first two days was the grandma who sent her grandchildren to our front door with a note that said “Welcome to town” and a $100 gift card to the local grocery store. A pastor from one of the local churches brought two huge boxes of non-perishables and stood around talking like we were old friends.
Our arrival was no fairy-tale, but our welcome was warm. Quickly, we were no longer friendless or without food.
It reminds me of the arrival of another stranger whose welcome wasn’t quite so warm. Joseph and his very pregnant wife took a long road trip to pay the IRS. Stargazing hippies were following something like a UFO, hoping for incredible news. When Mary and Joseph finally arrived, not only was there no food in the deep freeze, but the hotel was at capacity.
Jesus wasn’t born in a cheap motel, or a stranger’s bedroom. The Savior was born to an unwed, pregnant teenage girl in a stable, echoing with the sounds of farm animals. It must have smelled terrible. This was not the triumphant arrival the Jews hoped for. Only three people even noticed the birth of Christ. They showed up later with gold, frankincense and myrhh. I bet Mary and Joseph were hoping for moose and halibut too, but you take what you can get when your baby was just born in a barn.
Sounds pretty chaotic, right?
Christmas is nearly here and if you take a look around your own stable, you may find some chaos, maybe a few asses, too. Advent doesn’t come with a promise that Jesus will snap His fingers and erase our struggle, but rather that we have an Advocate who is intimately familiar with our earthly experience.
Here’s the most beautiful part to me: the Prince of Heaven was born into our brokenness. Our Deliverer willingly dove headlong into the dump of our deficiency. Heaven to hay bales. Mercy to the manger. Christ came into our chaos.
When we let go of all the preconceived notions of what life should be like and instead grab hold of the opportunities in front of us, there’s a whole world of possibilities for us. When we learn to accept life as it comes, incredible things can happen.
Isn’t that what we really long for? In the here-and-now, we all just want opportunity, friendship, and food for our freezer.