MaryBeth Eberhard ponders ways to make space in our hearts for the Christ Child's coming.
When my children were younger, we painted seven letters purple and then sprayed glitter paint over the top. The seven purple letters are hung every Advent reminding us to prepare our hearts for Christmas. Now as I sit early in the early morning by a Christmas tree lit with the promise of a season of hope, I am prayerfully going deeper into what it truly means to prepare. Advent is a time of such busyness: a whirlwind of shopping, decorating, and hospitality added to the everyday responsibilities that the peace which calls to us can be hard to pause for.
But what if we did? What does that look like—that pause? For me, it can mean closing my laptop and sitting with the Lord. Peaceful Christmas music playing softly in the background, I hear Him calling and from my couch, snuggled with a sleeping child, white lights twinkling from that tree, I pause. We walk heart in heart, Jesus and I, perhaps down memory lane talking through all the thoughts swirling around in my head and heart, and he shows me all the ways He has loved me through the Christmases.
Beautiful memories mix with hard ones and tears slip quietly down my face at the beauty and rawness of these visions; as the Jesus, the tender Christ child, takes my hand and continues to walk with me. Like looking into the memories as if they were windows from Dicken’s Christmas Carol, I see His presence woven through each memory. With adult eyes and a wisdom cultivated from grace, I see each memory with a different lens and healing, like blood rushing to limbs that have fallen asleep, begins to flow and my heart feels lighter. Bit by bit, space is cleared to welcome Him who loves me most.
To prepare for something as momentous as the birth of Jesus, to welcome in such a guest, there must be room in my heart for the gifts He offers, and the magnitude of those gifts requires space. Space that I have filled with other emotions that weigh me down and make it difficult for such preparation. And this preparing is not so much about the stress of getting ready. Rather it is more about the offering, the heartfelt but simple gestures we make to prepare for His arrival.
Imagine if we took time to prepare our hearts for The Christ Child’s arrival with the same energy and diligence we prepare for our extended family’s holiday arrival or the homecoming of college children for the Christmas season? The older I get, the more I realize that true joy and peace flow from gratitude—a heart that values relationships, a heart that is merciful and seeks to see and understand Jesus in each situation. Oh, how that is challenging, but so very worth it. For seeking Jesus in others opens our eyes to His presence. We begin to actively seek Him, and like the five wise virgins in the parable in Matthew 25, we will make sure our lamps are ready.
"Then the kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom. Five of them were foolish and five were wise. The foolish ones, when taking their lamps, brought no oil with them, but the wise brought flasks of oil with their lamps." (Matthew 25:1-4)
This Advent, amid the hustle and bustle of this gift-giving season, let us sit with the Lord. Let’s find an Advent penance service, an open Adoration chapel, an hour just sitting with the Lord and allow ourselves to draw into this season set aside just for this, to prepare. The strange and beautiful thing is that Jesus prepares our hearts for us if we open them to Him. He is waiting for the invitation, for our pause, for our lens to shift from the worldly to the eternal. The Peace, that we seek is coming.
Father, thank you for always being there for me. Thank you for your tender patience with me as I learn to surrender and seek Your presence in all people, all places. Please help me let go of things that crowd my heart and take space meant only for you this Advent season and always.
Copyright 2023 MaryBeth Eberhard
About the Author
MaryBeth Eberhard spends most of her time laughing as she and her husband parent and school their eight children. She has both a biological son and an adopted daughter who have a rare neuromuscular condition called arthrogryposis and writes frequently about the life experiences of a large family and special needs. Read more of her work at MaryBethEberhard.com.