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Have the Christmas preparations gotten to you yet?


Are you feeling overwhelmed and frazzled? Is your to-do list miles long still? Have you baked too many cookies? Have you wrapped so many presents? Or maybe you haven’t even thought about presents yet!


The month of December always seems to knock us down. As much as we prepare and plan, some things don’t always go as planned. The cookies burn. We can’t find the perfect present for our loved one. The kids get sick before the Christmas concert. The preschoolers refuse to participate in the church’s pageant. And all the while the season of Advent invites us to enter God’s time rather than our culture’s time. The season offers us an invitation to rest, pause, to bask in the light. We’re called to wait and watch.   


The one thing that I can count on during the Advent season is counting down with chocolate. For as long as I can remember I marked the season of Advent with chocolate Advent calendars. A tiny door opened eagerly each morning to be met with chocolate. I loved my calendar growing up. So much so that my mother sent me calendars throughout college and even when I lived in Africa following graduation.


During my first Christmas in Africa while the sun beat down and my surroundings did little to inspire the Christmas spirit, I eagerly awaited opening my calendar. The first day in December I remember being almost giddy. I had a connection to my family. I had a way to mark this sacred season. I couldn’t wait for the literal taste of home. I opened day number 1 and anticipated that first bite of chocolate. Yet all that greeted me was an empty box. No chocolate.


It melted.


Some things don’t always go as planned.


Each day I continued to open the doors one by one. Each day I had the same hope – chocolate. And each day the same ending – an empty box.


My Advent that first year in Africa looked very different than years past, yet I continued to wait. I still savored the acts of waiting and preparing. I still longed for the peace of Christ born as a baby. I still anticipated peace and joy to break into this world. My waiting just didn’t go as I originally planned.


That is the gift of Advent, though, that our waiting opens us to gifts and understanding found in simple acts. I didn’t get chocolate each day that Advent, but it’s really never about the chocolate. It’s about showing up to the day eager to see what’s in store. Advent is about patiently waiting for God to burst into our lives over and over again.


Finally on Christmas as I opened the last door on my Advent calendar and found it empty, I opened the bottom of the calendar. There at the bottom beneath all the opened doors I found a lump of chocolate. All the small pieces from each day melted to the bottom and formed one large piece of chocolate.


On Christmas day I took that chocolate and ate it. Chocolate never tasted so good.


Kimberly Knowle-Zeller is an ordained ELCA pastor, mother of two, and spouse of an ELCA pastor. She lives with her family in Cole Camp, MO. You can read more at her website: or follow her work on Facebook:



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