Weekly Reflections

Preparing Our Hearts and Minds During Advent

“As we prepare our hearts for Christmas we need to declutter the stuff that distracts us from Jesus.” Belinda Letchford

The topic of spiritual discussions lately seems to be the impending anxiety people feel when they think of all the things they have to do in preparation for Christmas.

While decorating, shopping, baking, parties, and family gatherings top our lists of things to do, perhaps a new perspective may help you to better prepare for the season.

Let’s face it, unless you’ve made a decision to not to do any of the above, preparation is necessary, and things will need to get done. So my suggestion is that we have a different approach to the doing. I say we invite Jesus into our daily activities, no matter what they are!

Our prayers this season can be directed mindfully toward God. Pay attention to the little things. Invite family and friends to help you. Be aware of God’s presence in the activities you are participating in. Ask God to remove worry around the things that don’t matter and pay more attention to the things that do. Take moments to pause and rest in God’s invitation to be still. We can do this even in a checkout line at Target!

As Christians, we try our best to keep the focus of Advent on our preparations for this great unfolding love story of the Incarnation, God sending forth his only Son to live among us. However, is it possible that we miss opportunities to share the true meaning of Advent if we do not include our secular activities as part of this celebration. Invite God into every experience this Advent season.

I recently took my mom out for a leisurely drive and along the way stopped to do some holiday errands. She would rather sit in the car and read the paper or “people watch” as I do my shopping. As we pulled into the parking lot of small retail store an old Christmas tune, Pretty Paper, sung by Elvis, came on the radio. My mom immediately reacted and said, “Oh, I love this song.” Something in her voice told me not to shut off the car, and immediately run into the store. Instead, I told her I’d wait in the car with her until the song ended. In a cracked voice and with tears streaming down her face she said, “I was married to your dad for sixty years, and I’m struggling to remember the times we shared together.”

Placing my hand gently on her shoulder I just let her feel the emotions as I realized all the implications of what she was telling me in this very vulnerable moment we shared.

Here’s my point. This Christmas tune, which had nothing to do with the Incarnation, still had everything to do with Christ. God was present in that experience my mom and I shared. It was an old tune that brought my dad’s memory back to my mom in a special way. Her body felt connected to my dad in a way that is probably more rare for her these days. Her vulnerability and tears replaced her strong and sometimes guarded disposition. For me, it was an experience that touched my heart deeply. It was, and is, an invitation to increase my empathy, awareness, and love. That is what I call an Advent moment, recognition of the power of the Holy Spirit’s movement within us, and the power to nudge our perspective toward God.

Advent affords us opportunities to experience and convey our Christian faith in outward ways. Whether you are in church, or shopping, or baking, or wrapping presents, or at a party with friends, or praying in silence, invite God into your awareness. I always go back to what St. Ignatius teaches: if what you are doing or saying honors, serves, praises, and loves God, then you are in prayer. You are in joy! And this joy is contagious.

So, enjoy baking, decorating, shopping, the parties, and family gatherings. Balance those activities with quiet time and prayer. Find God’s presence (presents) in it all. This truly then, will prepare you for the Feast of the Incarnation.

  • Stacy

    What a beautiful moment with your mom – thank you for sharing. Thank you also for the wonderful reminder to be open to Christ in our everyday activities and Christmas preparations! Perfect for this Advent season.

    December 3, 2017