Preparing Your Heart
Making our Advent Lists
The habit has been engrained in us since childhood: making a Christmas list. Maybe we wrote letters to Santa, asking for some of the toys we’d been seeing in advertisements. As we grew up, we addressed our Christmas Lists to our parents. In adulthood, we spend more time making sure the heating bill is paid in cold December. Even still, we have wants and desires (who doesn’t?) and we find ways to treat ourselves.
List-making in this season is a good habit, but while the voices around us are pressuring us to make lists of things that we want. It’s well and good for us to come before Almighty God asking to receive, as long as we remember the kinds of gifts that God gives. God is not our personal blessing vending machine!
The gifts that God gives are attested throughout the New Testament. Remember how one of God’s messengers told Mary what she’d be receiving for Christmas?
“The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy—the Son of God.” (Luke 1:35)
Mary is promised the gifts of the Holy Spirit’s arrival, the power of God, and a child through whom she others will be blessed.
Advent List #1: What would you like to receive from God as you complete this Advent journey of reading, prayer, and reflection?
If you have your list of things to receive, great! But if you really want to take this season seriously, we also should consider what Jesus needs to take from us so that we might be able to complete this journey.
Imagine Advent as a backpacking trip. Everything you need for your journey has to be carried on your back. As you’re packing, you have your tent, sleeping bag, food supplies, first aid kit, and a couple heavy bricks laid out on your bed. As you assemble your bag and test it out, you recognize that it’s way too heavy. What do you do? Well, the answer is obvious. You take out the heavy bricks that are weighing you down.
That example may seem absolutely ridiculous, but guess what? Many of us are preparing for this Advent journey with bags loaded with things that are just as useless and burdening as a bag of bricks.
Left to our own devices, our bags are packed with sin, habits, distractions, guilt, and even some well-intentioned (even spiritual!) tasks that are going to prevent us from completing this journey.
Paul reminds us in Philippians 2:
Jesus “emptied Himself, taking the form of a servant, being born in human likeness, and being found in human form.
Even Jesus had to lighten his load of the burden of glory for a time so that he could make God’s presence known to us!
Another challenging text of this season reminds us:
“You know very well that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night.” (1 Thes. 5:2)
Not only can we expect the coming of Jesus to come unexpectedly, you can bet there are things that aren’tcoming with us into glory. Things God needs to remove from our lives so that we can spend eternity in God’s Kingdom.
As the saying goes, “you’ll never see a U-Haul behind a hearse.”
So if you dare, make a second list.
Advent List #2: What sins, habits, resentments, tasks, and guilt do you need God to remove from your heart and life this season so you can complete this journey unencumbered by unnecessary weight?