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Advent: Let Every Heart Prepare Him Room

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Advent: Let Every Heart Prepare Him Room 

Can you hear the voice of one crying in the wilderness, “Prepare the way of the Lord; make his paths straight”?  The holidays can be a crowded and bustling season filled with to-do lists, parties, traditions, and travel.  All of these are good things.  But the central figure of Advent, John the Baptist, calls us to do one thing- prepare. 

The word “advent” is derived from the Latin word for “coming.”   Thus, Advent awakens our awareness of three “comings” of Christ: his past, his present, and his future. Let’s look at practical ways to prepare our hearts as we look deeper into each of these three comings.

The first advent (“coming”) occurred in the past with the fulfillment of Israel’s eager waiting for a messiah to deliver them.  The Word became flesh.  God became man.  This first coming of Christ, which began in a manger and finished at the cross, led to the deliverance of mankind from slavery to sin and death.  Therefore, in response to Christ’s first coming, one way to prepare your heart this Advent is to cultivate a holy adoration.  Take time to reflect and marvel at the mystery of God becoming man.  Read something that gets your mind focused on the incarnation.  Subscribe to Grace’s Advent devotional and read (individually or with your family) some of the Old Testament passages at the top to learn about the prophesies that led to Christ’s first coming.  Or wade into a few old or new theological books on the incarnation to plumb the depths of the advent mystery.  For an ancient classic, pick up Athanasius’ On the Incarnation or for a contemporary read, The Incarnation of God or Hidden Christmas

The second advent is the present coming of Jesus into our lives.  Every day Jesus comes into individual hearts to save us and to sanctify us.  What ways has Jesus been breaking into your story lately?  If you can’t point to a way that Jesus has been changing you lately, prepare your heart this Advent by cultivating a holy habit.  Try doing something on a regular basis this Advent season that you haven’t done before (or have fallen out of the habit of doing).  Create space for Jesus to come anew in your everyday life.  This could be by spending 10 minutes a day just listening to God in silence. Or try journaling your thoughts and prayers.  Maybe it is by blessing someone in a practical way every day this Advent.  If the holiday season has felt excessive to you in recent years, try fasting once a week.  Pick a habit that will invite Jesus to come afresh.

The third advent is the future “coming” of Christ when he will return to redeem everything and set the world to right.  Even during “the most wonderful time of the year” there is a nagging sense that everything is not the way it is supposed to be.  In our world, we see news of wars, abuse, and injustice.  In our community, we see poverty, violence, and sickness. In our families, we experience hurts, misunderstandings, and disappointments.  In our own hearts, we struggle with our sin, stress, and pain.  The future advent of Christ assures us we can face the current state of things with honesty and hope because we know that God will ultimately “make his blessings flow as far as the curse is found.”  Things as they are now will not always be.  As we await Jesus’ restorative return, cultivate a holy longing.   It is okay for your heart to be frustrated and wearied by the brokenness you see around you and within you.  But whatever you encounter this Advent that tempts you to despair, turn it into a prayer.  Tell God what burdens your mind.  Share with God what grieves your soul.  You will find an empathetic listener.  But not only that, you will find the One who has power to change things. 

As you meditate on the three comings of Christ this Advent, I encourage you to choose a way to prepare your heart.  Cultivate a holy adoration, a holy habit, or a holy longing.  And on Christmas Eve, when we sing together, this line will resound with a brighter meaning:

 

“Joy to the World, the Lord has come!

Let earth receive her King;

Let every heart prepare Him room
And heaven and nature sing.”