We lit the candles after supper on Sunday, the table covered with the remnants of spaghetti and meatballs. The tinies bickered over who gets to blow out the candles at the end, and we were all “BLOWING OUT CANDLES IS NOT THE POINT OF ADVENT” and I read our devotional off the laptop screen. Evelynn kept interrupting, wanting to talk, too, and so we shushed and quieted and started over and over and over. Moment of peace and reverence, indeed, I huffed. But then Brian asked a few questions, and their eyes were big as they answered: this candle is peace! this one is hope! this one is joy! it’s because Jesus came to give us those things! Yes, indeed, I guess we’re getting it together, heaven forgive me for not noticing it. God, the mess and the reverence all gathered together is so beautiful.

Earlier that day, I had pulled up the school gymnasium and flung open the car doors: run! run! go to the music room! you’re late! Anne and Joe were off like a shot, galloping in their boots for the last kid choir rehearsal before their performance at 10:30 that morning. I parked the car and followed them into the dark gym. It was filled with empty chairs and Christmas lights, and there in one far corner, a gathering of parents stood smack right in front of the risers filled with children in their Christmas best. We bundled like penguins, shuffling shoulder to shoulder, iPhones up to record the actions, DSLRs set on automatic settings clicking away, our feet tapping with the songs we had memorized along with our tinies. I stood in the dark, hugged a few friends, snapped blurry pictures with my iPod because I’d forgotten my camera, sang along “doo-doot-doo-doo-doo-doo-doo it’s Christmas” and became the full sense of sight, drinking the sight of them standing on the risers right into my frazzled soul. God, they’re so beautiful.

We sang for nearly an hour and a half. Oh, there was other stuff, too – a spoken word poem, a dance, a choir, the kids singing, but we sang and sang and sang in the darkness, packed in beside each other with all of the grandmothers and grandfathers and in-laws who came to witness this moment. God, we were so beautiful.

Near the end of the service, a loud hum kicked in right above our heads. We looked up and fake snow began to fall through the blue lights while the girl on stage danced and twirled. The machine kept humming and spilling fake snow onto the low stage. The last song was a loud and boisterous celebration and all of a sudden all the kids, as one, without prompting, just began to head for the scaffolded stage, climbing the step and they began to dance. Joe and his buddies stomping and jerking, trying to imitate the break-dancers, Anne and her friends twirling and leaping in the back, Evelynn and all the toddlers flapping their arms and grinning. It was chaos and it was beautiful, the blue light illuminating the children, the grown-ups clapping along and singing at the top of their lungs while the snow drifted down through the darkness inside to gather in our hair. God, that moment was so beautiful.

My friend’s husband negotiated freedom for wrongfully imprisoned women this week. We talked about it, about the real tangible moment of Jubilee happening right this blessed second – captives! released! exiles returning home! – and we cried together for these women. God, my friend and her husband are so beautiful.

Someone told me about their church holding a Blue Christmas service for those in their community who are grieving and longing at Christmas, unable to fathom the joy perhaps, and so they make space for prayer, for communion, for quiet, to hold each other, to light candles for their grief together for just an evening in the midst of the shopping and the wrapping and the bright tinsel. God, what a beautiful way to minister to each other.

Our Legacy Project in Haiti is still going strong. We’re filling backpacks with hope for a Haitian community and even right now at a busy Christmas season, people are clicking and giving their money away, sowing seeds that will last for generations. We’re already at 50% of our goal. God, generous people of hope are so beautiful.

A hundred times a week, in the small daily moments of my life and the big borderless world of believers, one lighted candle after another, here are the moments when heaven breaks through.

Sometimes every one can see it, sometimes no one sees it but you: the light is breaking through.

I love the phrase “heaven breaks through.”

I love it because it means that we’ve set up an outpost for the Kingdom of God, it means that the God-way-of-life has been established for even just a moment here on earth, it means that for just a while there we saw the way we were always meant to live. Redemption, wholeness, beauty, love, peace, goodness.

It means that for a second everything fit into wholeness and we caught a glimpse of true intended humanity. It means that something rises up in our soul when we see it, and we offer the only response: God, that is so beautiful.

***

I’d love to hear about a moment or two when you found heaven breaking through in your life. Look forward to reading about it in the comments.

Oh, and to donate to Backpacks of Hope, which is part of the Legacy Project in Haiti that we helped to fund last year, you can click here for info.

 

In which we make room for the small joys
In which I praise the village
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  • The most recent moment was on Saturday when I stood in line purchasing last minute supplies for our Neighborhood Christmas party and I had to dip into our kids’ Christmas money to pay for everything. We were over budget, it was raining and we were expecting more than we’d originally planned for. (we live in the ‘hood and so we feed a lot of hungry mouths) and I had a moment of doubt about whether or not to spend the money. But I did. And yesterday, I found a gift card in the mailbox, replacing every dollar I had gone over budget. Heaven breaking through. Yep. It was glorious. (love your post, too.)

    • Oh, my goodness, Lori! God, that’s beautiful!

  • Emily Brooke

    Last night as my mom and I sat in the pews of our church waiting for my children to sing in their Christmas program, we were surprised to see my 11 year old son step down off the risers and approach the microphone by himself. While the other children in the choir sang behind him softly, he surprised us with his very own solo. Mom and I both cried at his angel voice. God, your children’s voices are so beautiful.

  • this has become my existence. everything is quivering for me right now, with the potential of losing my grandmother after already losing the other grandmother this year.

    God, your coming is beautiful. this is the only thing keeping me steady.

    • Oh, Rachel – I’m so sorry for what you’re walking through right now. Peace with you, sister.

  • Sandy Jones Fox

    We fostered a little boy with Down Syndrome for two years. We petitioned the orphanage to allow him to be adopted for those two years. Now, a little over three years later, he joined his forever family last week. Our joy is indescribable as we see pictures of him with his new family.
    God, your faithfulness to this one little boy is so amazing.

  • becca1612

    This is actually from a few years ago, but I actually just have to revisit it every single Christmas because it’s one of the most beautiful times I’ve experienced of heaven breaking through 🙂 – http://thestanleyclan.blogspot.com/2009/12/one-very-cold-night.html

  • Thank you for this post! It’s often difficult to see where heaven breaks through (and find joy) in the darkness of this world. (This week, in particular, for so many.)

    Oh there are so many ways that heaven has broken through… Most recently:
    1. In one of my youth groups, there are a few youth who have special needs. One of these boys loves to play soccer because it’s one of the few things he can do physically and one of the few activities in which he can somewhat communicate verbally with others. Last Wednesday at our Christmas party, heaven broke in when I walked into the gym and saw another youth playing soccer with him (and they were both laughing)… Later that night, she asked him if she could be his partner when we played sardines that night, and she led him around the church as they looked for the hiders.
    2. On Friday night, I took my other youth group Christmas caroling at a few of the retirement centers in our neighborhood in Chicago. Though most of these youth are fairly new to the U.S. and some of them still do not speak much English (and many of them had never sung or heard some of the Christmas carols until that night), they sang confidently and beautifully – bringing joy to so many residents of the retirement centers. Heaven broke through with the voices of these beautiful angels!
    3. Watching how giving my youth and children (many of whom won’t be receiving a lot of gifts of their own this Christmas) have been as they have been collecting and donating stuffed animals, flip flops, and other needed items for the children in the Philippines.

    • These are so stunning. Thank you for sharing them. God, so beautiful! And yes, I know what you mean, Emily – feeling that heaviness with and for so many this season.

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  • Recently, but not quite yet in Advent, I was overwhelmed with sorrow and grief and wasn’t really able to even articulate a prayer. Hope was disappearing. We had lost our first pregnancy in April after we had seen a beautiful heartbeat after 7 weeks. At our ten week appointment there was no longer a heartbeat, and we were crushed. Then, in November, we lost our second baby through miscarriage as well and the wind was knocked out of me. I decided to go on a walk, and as I was walking and looking at the beautiful changing trees through our neighborhood, the Holy Spirit whispered to me, “This is a season.” In the same way that the leaves change and fall off, this season will change, even though it may be more stubborn than I would like. They were encouraging words from Jesus straight to my heart. I wrote a blog post about it as well. (-: I definitely think heaven broke through that day.

    ~K

    • Beautiful, K. I’m so sorry for what you’ve suffered. I’ve walked my own path on that road and it changed my profoundly. Love to you and thank you for sharing your precious moment with us.

  • a dark day of grief and fear led me to an angry place. I was flailing. A kiss on the top of my head, and my husband whispering words of hope changed the atmosphere. Heaven broke through in the living room, with the front door still open wide to receive the frosted air. Love those grace filled moments.

  • Having a 16-month-old had made this season more magical, as everything is Brand New. Greeting the tree each morning; “singing” along to carols; seriously “reading” the Advent scripture…. I am reminded of the wonder of heaven in a newborn king.

    • Yes! Seeing it all through their wonder-filled eyes gives us hope again.

  • Love this post.

  • Stephanie

    Only moments ago, I read a prayer request from a friend on Facebook. My friend was diagnosed with cancer just over a year ago, and she was told at the time that she had only a few months to live. She has been through rounds of chemo and all that comes with it. The cancer has been slowly consuming her body since her initial diagnosis, and the doctors have told her that it’s only a matter of time. They have done all they can. My friend’s request? For more time with her family, just one more Christmas to celebrate with her children and grandchildren.
    In its own bruised and broken way, I see beauty here. In my friend’s request to the heavens, I see a softly spoken reminder that this life is but a short and uncertain thing. My friend is savoring every moment of her time here, and it is a lesson in how to live. Especially during a season when it is so easy to become consumed with plans and preparations and the desire to have everything “just so,” we may need to be reminded to savor the moments we are given, as they are given. From the quiet voice of a woman who knows she is soon to be in the arms of her Creator comes the gentle reminder to stop existing, and live. In this, I see heaven and all its glory breaking through.

  • I imagine those moments as having a heavenly sound track: the angelic choir singing as they do when a sinner repents (or when heaven breaks through). Love those moments!

  • Michelle Gunnin

    My daughter is currently on the World Race…going to 11 countries in 11 months to serve the people with ministries already on the ground there. This month she and her squad are in Swaziland serving children who have been orphaned by AIDS. One of the girls on her squad was so moved with compassion for these kids that she posted a quick status on Facebook asking her friends if they could donate a few dollars so she could buy some clothes for the kids. She received $2,500! Not only enough for an extra set of clothes but toys as well! The love of God made manifest through compassion…perfect gift for the holiday season. Heaven breaking through indeed…

  • When we DO take notice of heaven breaking through into our ordinary, I’m-a-nobody, lives, what do we do with that? I mean really. The Lord God, Creator of all that exists is in our face, pointing to that precious leaf of gold on the forest floor with our name on it. Do we seek it out, or just keep doing our own thing creating a pile of leaves that die with us? More here … https://sites.google.com/site/holyhugs/thin-places

  • Noel Carlson

    I had the honor of attending a benefit for a Haitian hospital so close to my heart. Over $18,000 was raised for the St. Luke’s Foundation in Port au Prince this past Saturday. Thanks be to God.

  • Laura Reese

    My husband and I have always talked about the importance of living in a way that “brings the kingdom.” Finally, this summer, we have a home of our own and wanted to start using it to help the folks God has brought into our lives. We have found that often it’s hard. We like to do things our way. I’m embarrassed to admit that too frequently I think about how “I’m inconvenienced, but we made a commitment, so we keep at it.” Lord, forgive me for missing the point – and so quickly! Thank you, Sarah, for the reminder to see the bigger picture of heaven breaking through as God works in our home, and in my heart.

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