Christmas is now less than two weeks away!! How does that make you feel?
Do you feel the pangs of excitement you once did as a child, or does your long list of “to dos” have you stressing?
We are in the height of the Advent season, the secular Christmas, and the more people I speak with as we move closer to Christmas Day, the more stressed out and anxious everyone seems to be. We have decorations to put up, gifts to purchase, cards to send, cookies to bake, parties and pageants to attend, travel schedules to coordinate, elves to move and the list goes on.
While none of these things are bad and they can individually create special memories that help prepare our hearts for this magical season, they can also become clutter if they collectively leave you feeling stressed out or anxious. If preparation for the “day” distracts you from preparation for the “person,” you’re missing the point. We won’t find peace during this time (or any time for that matter) if we don’t leave room for Christ to dwell within us, which requires us to declutter.
If someone were to ask ”Are you ready?,” how would you respond? Would your mind go straight back to the immediate checklist and how much is left to do? If you’re responding about the “day,” sure you’ll be ready once that checklist is complete, but for what? Once the day is past I always wonder how it went by so fast! I would encourage you to consider that question differently...are you truly ready for the “person,” Christ, to enter into your life?
Preparing for His coming requires a deeper look into the clutter we may be carrying with us. Beyond the clutter we are feeling in our homes with basic preparations for Christmas, the unseen clutter cuts deeper, into our hearts and souls. It’s a clutter that is more difficult to clean up and requires Christ’s healing hand…. let’s take a moment to reflect on the deeper-rooted, unseen clutter that may be serving as a distraction:
We find a great example in Mary’s fiat, her “yes” to the Lord when the angel Gabriel appeared to her. Consider the pure love her motherhood represents and the example she sets for us; how much she was surrendering to become our Blessed Mother. She knew she was about to embark on a difficult journey into the wilderness, but whether she realized it or not at the time, she was ready. She patiently trusted in the Lord, through whom nothing is impossible. As a result, she drown out the noise around her and cleaned out the clutter of fear and anxiety so she could fulfill her vocation. She allowed herself time to pray and reflect on the profound things happening in her life…trusting in God’s protection.
If you are facing struggles in life, your role is not to question God, but patiently trust He’s guiding you. Deuteronomy 31:8 says “Do not be afraid or discouraged, for the Lord will personally go ahead of you.” God is omnipotent, omnipresent and omniscient – He has the best mind for coming up with the right plan. He goes before us into the future to prepare the way for us and He has the power to equip us with the necessary tools to face our trials. We can count on Him!
I recently read in my Bible Study, “He doesn’t always rescue us from suffering, but through our suffering. He strips away our comfort and sense of complacency so we are forced to turn our eyes towards Heaven.” It’s in these moments that our purpose becomes more clear.
Imagine the abandonment that Mary and Joseph must have felt as they prepared for the arrival of their son. They were forced to leave their home and deliver a baby...in a barn! Pope Francis reflects, “Far from trying to understand or master the situation, Mary is the woman who can treasure, that is to say, protect and guard in her heart, God’s presence in our world.” Mary continued to patiently trust despite the loneliness she may have felt. She was ready.
If you are feeling lonely, abandoned, misunderstood, under appreciated, or maybe you’re grieving the loss of a loved one, look at this feeling of solitary as God’s way of encouraging you to turn to Him. He promises us in Hebrews 13:5 “I will never fail you. I will never abandon you.” With this hope, allow Him to take control of the clutter and clean up the mess. You’re not alone and it’s not all up to you! These are lies!!
Consider how Mary must have felt in her final week of pregnancy as she was led ninety miles on a donkey from Nazareth to Bethlehem, only to arrive and find nowhere to settle comfortably. Or when twelve-year-old Jesus stayed behind in the temple and his parents couldn’t find him for three days! Or fast forward to her seat at the foot of the cross where she had witnessed her son go through the most grueling beating and crucifixion known to man. These are extreme examples to relate back to our own lives, but it should put things into perspective for us. Our Blessed Mother embodied a patient trust as she carried Christ into this world for us and raised Him in this world. She was ready. And He lives!
How do you respond when God doesn’t answer your prayers the way you would like? Do you cry foul and get angry? Do you feel you are owed something better and ask God “why” He allows bad things to happen in your life? Do you ever find yourself focused on what you deserve or what you feel you are owed? This attitude can creep into your relationships with God.
Luke 22:42 reminds us “Not my will, but your will be done…” Sit with that.
May we look at our own disappointments differently; rather than allowing a clutter of doubt or anger to enter into your heart, accept your disappointments believing that something better is around the corner.
Our lives will always have clutter - seen and unseen. But perhaps this Advent as you prepare yourself for Christmas, you can relinquish the control you never truly had. Accept the fact that you‘re never going to be enough without Him. Rather than hold onto your anxiety, loneliness or anger, let’s strive to be more like Mary because she was always ready! Shift your gaze to the manger, as it’s the greatest message of hope despite our circumstances.
Pray for the patient trust to welcome Christ into your clutter because He understands suffering and is the best equipped to guide you through it.
Christ is coming. Will you let Him dwell within you?
Are you ready?