The season of Advent in the church is a time to get ready to receive God’s gracious gift of Jesus into our world. We do our best to be ready to receive Jesus by preparing our worship spaces, our homes, and our hearts.
We hang garlands in our sanctuary and add beautiful poinsettias. We put the Chrismons on the tree in the foyer. We invite family, friends, and neighbors to join us for special Advent traditions as we all anticipate the birth of Jesus.
We clean the house, paying attention to every detail. We strive to make space for guests, so they know they are welcome. We might add special touches to their room in an effort to let them know that they are appreciated.
These physical preparations can certainly be an outward sign of our desire to welcome Jesus and others. But, they can also be a means of a diversion for us. These actions can leave little room for us to prepare our hearts. What if we spend the entire season of Advent in one activity or another with no time spent actually preparing our hearts for Jesus?
But, how do we prepare our hearts to receive Jesus? We wait. We hear that we should prepare and wait every Advent season. I know that I, for one, do a great job of preparing. I clean the house, I decorate, I shop, I wrap gifts, I study recipes, I shop for food, I bake and cook. I try to make everything just perfect for Christmas! I’m all over the preparing part!
Then there’s the waiting part. I don’t know about you, but waiting doesn’t seem to come naturally for me. I know that’s true when I am sitting in traffic on 820 at I-35W! I come face to face with my inability to wait when I am standing in line at Walmart behind the person who brought with them every possible coupon and newspaper ad!
If I am honest with myself, I know that all of my busyness really has nothing to do with the birth of a baby in a manger…a baby who came to save us all. If I am waiting and attuned to my surroundings, I might glimpse the face of the Christ Child in the eyes of the stranger who is sitting on the sidewalk in front of QT waiting for a handout. I might see that what he needs, even more than money, is to be seen as a real person and loved for who he is. I might stop to talk to him, and receive the gift of his smile. If I am paying attention, I might see the old woman at Kroger struggling to load her groceries into her car. I might offer to help her, and receive the gift of her gratitude.
If I can slow down and live outside of myself, I can wait with anticipation for God’s greatest gift: a savior, Jesus Christ. I know that I must prepare my heart by making time and space, honest space like a sidewalk in front of QT, a checkout line at Walmart, a manger filled with straw. I must be still, prepare, and wait.