This afternoon a good friend of ours is coming to stay for the weekend, so we spent last night getting the house straightened up. We put away wedding presents and cards, cleaned the bathroom, straightened out the kitchen, and tidied up the master bedroom. The only other room in our house, our office which doubles as a guest room, had already been straightened up after our last houseguests left.
Except this morning, I remembered that in the rush of post-wedding catch-up, the start of Advent, and my wife’s final exams, we had used the guest room as a sort of staging area for Christmas. Unused Christmas lights, ornament boxes, and wrapping paper were strewn across the bed and floor. We had spent last night organizing every room except for the one that mattered most for our guest.
Sometimes the run-up to Christmas can feel a lot like that. We are so overwhelmed with everything we need to do, that we forget to make room for the most important guest of all: Christ. We get ready for his coming by buying gifts, decorating, going to parties, and cooking, but in all the rush we can forget to open our hearts up to Jesus. When Christmas day comes, we might feel like the spiritual equivalents of a host who realizes they forgot the most important preparations of all.
Advent can be an antidote to our Christmas stresses and to-do lists. It can be a way to concentrate on the preparations that matter most. We can use the season to set aside time each day to prepare for the coming of a long-awaited guest into our hearts. And if we do it faithfully, we can find ourselves enriched and spiritually full on Christmas morning. Little things like saying a prayer each day, lighting an Advent wreath, or reading a devotional, can help us to stop and concentrate on what matters the most. What is happening inside of us is what matters most this time of year. The rest is just window dressing.