In case you haven't seen a calendar, looked at people's front yards, or watched enough of those ridiculous cars-with-huge-ribbons-on-them commercials (because most people we know regularly get a Lexus for Christmas) . . . Christmas is coming soon.
The Church celebrates Advent – a time of preparation – for the four weeks leading up to Christmas. I never really used to get into Advent; it seemed like an unnecessary reminder when we already have radio stations playing Christmas music, Christmas episodes of our favorite TV shows, and those red Starbucks cups to let us know that Jesus' birth is just around the corner.
I knew that I was supposed to get ready for Christmas, but what does that even mean? Doesn't God know how many things I already have going on? Why would He want to add to my stress?
A few years ago, someone told me that Advent is like a mini-Lent. These two liturgical seasons are both supposed to be times of preparation, prayer, and fasting. That year I decided to try something different. Instead of adding something to my life, I was going to subtract. I can't make time for God when there's no room left in my schedule. I needed to get rid of something to give Him some space in my day.
I decided to give up listening to music in my car. I spend a lot of time in the car every day, so I thought it might be a good idea to have some quiet time. I had no idea how tough it would be. I spent the first few days singing at the top of my lungs to fill the void left by the silence (fortunately Advent is scheduled for the cold part of the year, so my windows were up and other drivers didn't seem to notice).
Whenever things are quiet, I'm always surprised by how loud it is inside my head. I'm always thinking about a million different things. The idea of having silence sounded good, but I realized pretty quickly that there was still so much distraction. Maybe that's part of the reason why I always want to have some music on . . . because it helps drown out the noise.
Teach me how to pray
After awhile I began to pray in my car. I simply told God about every thought, hope, and fear that went through my head. I also learned to listen for His voice, to hear Him speak in silence and remind me of His love for me and His plan to provide for every need.
I've taken the same approach to Advent this year, and God's slowly teaching me how to pray again (when I'm not belting out songs I don't even like).
As we prepare for Christmas this year, rather than trying to add more to our lives, let's try to subtract something. When it was time for Jesus to be born, Joseph and Mary weren't looking for the busiest place in town, they just needed somewhere that had a space available.
What can you subtract from your life to make room for Jesus?
What if you gave up listening to music? Or video games or Facebook (even if it's only one or two days a week)? What if you committed to spending 10-15 minutes in prayer each day? Or turned your phone off for awhile to be more present to your family?
Even if your life seems crazy and it's hard to believe that God would want to make His home in you, remember that Jesus was born in a stable and laid in feeding trough for animals. All He needs is space.
'While they were there, the time came for her to have her child, and she gave birth to her firstborn son. She wrapped him in swaddling clothes and laid him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.' (Luke 2:7)