Preparation is a theme during Advent and Christmastime
The image above is of the field behind my house. I bought this field a couple of years ago after about eighteen months of legal discussions. I am slowly converting back to a wild space with native plants and trees. There is a lot of talk these days about the newfound importance of recreating natural and wild spaces. Seeing this field is a reminder of our need to rest, to prepare. Preparation is often a theme during Advent and Christmastime.
Taking time to rest and prepare during Advent and Christmas not only prepares our heart for Christ’s coming but also allows for growth and expansion of the human heart. Preparation is “the action or process of making something ready for use or service, or of getting ready for some occasion, test, or duty.” (Merriam Webster Dictionary). I have never been a huge fan of Christmas, being a kid with ADHD and lots of people and long days of visiting never went over well. What I do find spiritually nourishing and fulfilling the Winter Solstice. Here is the long night, a time of long silence, a time of darkness, a time of rest and a time of preparation.
An Invitation to prepare
Jesus was born sometime two thousand years ago to a tumultuous world of oppression, conflict, and poverty. A couple of hundred years after his death, the theologians would settle on the meaning of Christ and a way was paved for the celebration of Advent that we have today. The Christmas story is based on prophesies from the Old Testament and upon his birth, the fancy theological word is incarnation, Jesus arrives into our barrenness and longing, reverses the high and lowly segments of our world, and brings peace to our brokenness. As we await Jesus’ birth, we are invited to embody these very things—preparing our world for his arrival.
In Jesus’ arrival, love and mercy will be on full display for the known time Jesus walked among us. Jesus demonstrates for us the practice of preparation many times though his intentional practice of prayer. For Jesus, spending time alone with God was a necessity that fueled his ministry and manage what at times seems to be a demanding schedule if you lean into the immediacy of Mark’s Gospel.
Prayer has always been a bedrock of my contemplative practice. One of the four rungs of lectio divina, oratio is the product of a long reflection on the direction God is giving one in the reading at hand. It is an intimate exchange with God, like a dialogue between a Father and his child, or as Jesus would put it, with Abba. The basis of this prayer is its first two steps, during which you are the listener, as you invite the Word of God into your heart. Oratio is a symbol of alliance with God: you learn to adapt your demands to God’s Plan, to commit your will to God’s will.
Opening our hearts for arrival
For over two months from the end of October through January 1st, we are pushed to consume, buy, and engage in a sometimes impossible and often stressful time of business. When we prepare, we prepare with our hearts first. To begin to prepare in this season for Christ’s birth, we must relocate our hearts away from busyness, selfishness, and consumption, and into the presence of God. With open and prepared hearts then, we fully receive the birth of Jesus. And we are brought to humility, reconciliation, and acceptance of God’s outlandish grace lying in the manger.
Consider this prayer of preparation for your next week on the journey:
Dear God, silence all voices within our minds but your own.
Help us to seek and be able to follow your will.
May our prayers be joined
with those of our sisters and brothers in the faith,
that together we may glorify your name
and enjoy your fellowship forever.
In Jesus’ name, Amen.
-from The Worship Sourcebook, ©2004, Faith Alive Christian Resources