We are over halfway through the Advent season. Perhaps, like me, you yearned to have a more contemplative Advent.
Perhaps you planned to light candles and linger in their glow. Maybe you had hoped to pare down your ever-growing to-do list.
Probably, like me and most other people this time of year, you find yourself more frazzled, more overburdened with commitments.
I want to prepare my heart for Jesus, but my heart is already double- and triple-booked. I’m trying to have dinner with friends at the same time I’m scheduled to go to a Christmas concert on the same night our ELCA congregation wraps presents for children without homes.
I want to do them all. I can’t.
Our Gospel reading this Sunday focuses on Mary, and she’s a good role model for this time of year. Like Mary, we need to have a time of emptying and slowing down.
If you find yourself increasingly busy, it’s not too late to try to get your Advent back on track.
Consider your list of what you must do. What would happen if you could only choose one or two items? What would happen if you didn’t send out cards, if you only baked one batch of cookies, if you simplified your Christmas feasts? What traditions are essential? What can you set aside for this year?
Once we’ve cleared away some time and space in our hearts, what then should we do?
Return to the Advent wreath and light the candles again. Upon waking or just before bed, read an Advent text. Sing a verse of “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel.” Think about what it means to yearn for a savior. From what do you need to be set free? What homelands do you long to be restored to you?
Again, we should think of Mary. What is inside you, inchoate, waiting for you to give birth to it? In what ways can you be part of the redemption of creation?
Now is also a good time to look ahead into the new year. Some of us find it easy this time of year to keep our minds on the arrival of Christ, to prepare the manger, to hold ourselves as servants to the holy. It becomes harder as Epiphany’s glow fades into February.
How will we keep our hearts open to Jesus as we move through the next year? What disciplines might we want to adopt to try to keep our Advent frame of mind?
Some of us will decide to pray more frequently. Some of us will work in a social justice ministry. Some of us will give more of our resources away. Some of us will adopt a more rigorous Bible reading schedule. Some of us will schedule retreats on a regular basis.
Preparing our hearts for Jesus is an activity that we think of as an Advent activity, but it’s really a year-round endeavor. It’s easy for us to get distracted and busy. Now is a good time to find a spiritual discipline to keep our hearts open and our eyes alert.
Kristin Berkey-Abbott is a lifelong Lutheran, a college teacher and department head. She has taught a variety of English and creative writing classes for the last 20 years.