Updated on December 9, 2017
Advent in a coffee shop
She wants to see him. That’s it. That’s all she wants. He tries to get her to say more. An actual present, please? He persists. She wipes the corners of her eyes and leans in close to the computer. Just you, she whispers. No presents.
I am tucked into a corner at the coffee shop. Books, laptop, and notebooks are piled in barricades around me. And I am really trying not to eavesdrop, I promise! But the tables are close; her computer is practically touching mine as we attempt to huddle into our spaces, pound out work and sip caffeine.
She curls up in the chair and lowers her head as the connection breaks. “I miss him,” she says to no one imparticular.
I have typed the word Advent and that seems to have emptied out my brain. So, I raise my eyes from the blank screen and manage a smile. She holds my gaze and I wonder about her story. A thousand scenarios play out in my head. I am a hopeless romantic and stories are my thing.
“It’s not what you think,” she says reading my mind and rushing to gather her things. “It’s just work. I wish it were more romantic and movie-like. But it’s life. Work wins and we get to live here.”
She waves her arms around indicating our surroundings, and I find myself taking a second look at this familiar place.
Here. Where we live.
Christmas music is playing quietly in the background and lights are strung up a bit haphazardly. It’s busy here today. I feel the buzz of the people and the anticipation of the season. Part of me wants to stand up and yell, “It’s still November. You can take a deep breath!”
But that would be weird.
There’s the man with the newspaper quietly sipping his coffee and the younger crowd piled in on the couches; computers and notebooks on their laps and the moms in the corner fresh off the tennis courts. All of their voices mingle and rise and fall with the pulse of the music.
We get to live here.
The woman wipes her eyes and stands to leave. She carries her sadness in her shoulders and I see the word Advent still blinking on my blank screen. My old Bible is open on the table and as she walks past it gets knocked to the floor.
She freezes and gasps, “Is that a Bible?” I laugh and begin to gather the pages into the busted old spine of the book. But she reaches out to touch the frayed edges of the cover, “Isn’t it supposed to be kept somewhere like holy and sacred? Wow, your book is really so broken.”
And I am overwhelmed by all of the things in my head.
The very word of God has been scattered across this coffee shop floor and this woman, her sadness so heavy in her eyes, is holding pieces of it.
Clearly, I am called to do something here.
“It’s seen a lot of life,” I stammer out still sorting through the mess on the table and wondering why I have no words.
But she can’t take her hands off the Bible.
“I guess I never really think of the Bible as a book it is okay to break.” She blushes, flustered and pulls her hands away busying them with collecting her own stuff.
In my head, I am formulating sentences full of great wisdom and excellent verses. But no words are coming out of my mouth.
“It looks a lot like life, though.” She smiles and begins to quickly move towards the exit.
“Yeah, ” I finally find my voice, “God wants his words to become real to us. And real life sometimes looks like this, doesn’t it?” I point to the disheveled pile. She pauses, still somewhat captivated by the busted old Bible and then waves goodbye. “Merry Christmas,” she calls out over her shoulder.
I just sit and stare at the pile on the table.
The Word became broken, real, and scattered in a million places; among us. The Word came to be tucked deep into sad hearts and spilled over coffee drinkers, anxious students, and chatting moms; among us; in this real life where we live …
And while I sit here grasping for the perfect way to say it? God paints me a picture of Advent.
Like this, he seems to say as he busts open my old Bible and spills his Word all over the floor of this place.
You see, it isn’t the perfect that captivates and catches our hearts. It is the broken, the real, the hard. It is the arc of a story that leads to a baby in a manger for the sake of a fallen world. A story that has the power to speak into all of the very real places we live.
I watch my coffee shop comrade drive away, and take in all the faces of the people around me. And I feel Jesus lean in close over the tattered pile of holy pages. I don’t want your presents or your perfect words this Christmas. I just want you. I just want them — to see me here.
So dear sweet lady from the coffee shop, I think you might be onto something. And I sure do pray you get exactly what you want this Christmas.