“This Advent season invites us to gently prepare our hearts to receive the Son of God.”
Reflecting on his visit to small-town America, one writer listed some of the very appealing traits of that society – the warmth of the people, their politeness, their way of affirming one. But it also struck him that this was a society in a great hurry. “The biggest single crisis,” he wrote, “the biggest cultural deficit resulting from all this hurry, is the inability to be still, to face oneself in silence, just to be in the moment.”
It is not only in America that so many people seem to be endlessly on the go; just look around. When did I last savor a truly silent night? When did I stand under the stars in the silent darkness, hearing nothing unless it was the muted cry of a small animal or the wind stirring among the branches? When have I sat in my room, the television, the games, the phones all turned off, and listened to the sound of silence?
A recent report noted that on average young people from teens upward check their phones about eighty-five times a day. Our developed need for distraction is so great that it can be quite difficult, even scary, to break the habit. Yet it is only when we uncover the quiet space within our hearts that we will experience something of the tenderness of the Lord.
This Advent season invites us to gently prepare our hearts to receive the Son of God. We want to be open and welcoming to Jesus, to be gathered up in the joy and peace that is only his to give. But, and it’s a big but, we find it hard to avoid the razzmatazz of shopping and partying and the festivities of the season. We are not expected to eschew all this and become dour Christians – God forbid! But we are invited to find a little space in our busy days to prepare for the birth of this Child. We go into that inner room of our hearts and though we may feel drained because of all the troubles in our life, because of the unending violence in our world, because of the seeming hopelessness of our situation, yet we believe in God’s love and his tenderness, in his promise to be with us always. And, with faith, we welcome this Child, Emmanuel, God with us.
Master of both the light and darkness,
send your Holy Spirit upon our preparations for Christmas.
We who have so much to do seek quiet spaces to hear your voice each day.
We who are anxious over many things look forward to your coming among us.
We who are blessed in so many ways long for the complete joy of your kingdom.
We whose hearts are heavy seek the joy of your presence.
We are your people, walking in darkness, yet seeking the light.
To you we say, “Come Lord Jesus!” Amen. (Henri Nouwen)