I’ve been doing a lot of clearing out lately. It’s been … awesome. I have a general tendency to be a bit of a sentimental pack-rat (thinking, but I might need that someday, when considering whether or not to toss out the ratty, ill-fitting shirt I haven’t thought about since I was probably in college. Perhaps, though, it’s been the realization how how much room a tiny toddler and her accoutrement can possess that has inspired me finally to purge any unnecessary stuff from my life. Leeman and I have finally embraced the long-anticipated project of chucking DVD cases to put store our disks in compact slip cases (the urge to simplify hasn’t quite driven us to purging the disks all together quite yet … it’s about baby steps people). Mountains of hats and gloves are packed up for donation to the church’s mitten tree. Piles of socks worn through with holes are finally being sacrificed to the trash heap. So it goes.
I suppose there are many meditations I could offer on the process of sorting through a decade or so’s worth of accumulated stuff. Going into the pre-Christmas season, especially the consumer-extravaganza known as “Black Friday,” it can be a little overwhelming to consider how much stuff one can acquire in such a short time, and that it is oh, so easy to just replace the stuff I just cleared out with newer, brighter, fancier stuff. But I will save the anti-consumerist soap-box for another day (although, because it does need to be said, check out this blog post before heading out to hit the sales too fiercely this weekend). Instead, I want to draw a more symbolic meditation out of my recent domestic purge. Which has to do with this season of Advent into which the church is about it enter.
It goes without saying that Advent has long been lost in our culture that begins celebrating the festive holiday season on November 1 and starts tossing Christmas trees to the curb on boxing day. But Advent remains a season that is well work maintaining in our lives and in the church. If we think of Advent at all, we think of it as a season of waiting and expectation. That is certainly true. But what is it exactly we are waiting for? It is the presence of Christ. Throughout Advent, we pray as individuals and as a community the ancient cry of “Maranatha … Come, Lord Jesus.” There is preparation to be done as we await the coming of Christ for which we so longingly pray. It’s true, we usually think of Lent as that time of penitential preparation–a time for fasting, prayer, and intentional almsgiving. But Advent is just as much a season for preparation. It’s true, at least in the Church’s collective discipline today, Advent has taken on less of an overtly penitential character. It is, nevertheless, a time we are called to … prepare.
Perhaps one of the most important ways that we can prepare for the coming of Christ into our lives is simply by doing that spiritual house-cleaning that creates a space for Christ’s presence. What is the spiritual clutter that blocks out Christ? It can take many forms. From the excessive time spent on social media that prevents our awareness of Christ in our relationships or in our life of prayer. To more insidious forms — the business or, I dare say, the comfort that prevents more of us crying out for God’s redemptive presence when we see yet more evidence of the deeply broken world in which we live.
The Christmas story is a story of making room for the infant Christ. There was no room except for a simple stable and a humble manger bed. Yet, even that little space was room enough for God to enter our world.
As we approach this first Sunday of Advent, the question for us is, how can we make room for Christ in our small corner of the world. And then, perhaps, how will we allow God to use us to bring the light of Christ to others.