Advent 2.6: Prepare

Most of what I've been thinking about this Advent has had to do with waiting. But waiting for something outside myself. Waiting for God to show up in the world.

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What about waiting for something to change within me?

Let every heart prepare him room, "Joy to the World" proclaims.

What does that really MEAN? To prepare room in your heart?

Under more consideration, I realize that this isn't as foreign a concept as I'm making it out to be. It's actually a concept we know very well; we've prepared room in our hearts for countless people (and animals) throughout our lives. But I think in the cases of finding a new friend or falling in love or adopting a dog or having a child, it doesn't feel like we're preparing room for them--they simply show up in our lives, whether we planned it or not, and suddenly, without question, they matter. Or maybe it takes a little time to get used to their presence, but before we know it we can't imagine them not being part of us.

Either way, I don't know if I've ever considered it to be active preparation in the heart department; sure, logistically we can buy the dog bed or prepare the nursery, and yes, emotionally we can go to college expecting to make friends, or head out for a date hoping that there will be mutual attraction. But when you're in the moment, that's when the heart gets involved. Being swept along by a tide of connection or passion or love or this-person/animal-is-suddenly-in-my-life-and-I-need-to-embrace-it-because-I'm-responsible-for-keeping-her/him/it-alive. Seems like it happens when we meet the person, or after, that we find more space in our heart--not beforehand.

So I think that's why I find it interesting that we're told to prepare room for the Lord in our hearts during this waiting stage--compounded by the fact that Jesus Christ isn't your average flesh-and-blood person who you can get to know over drinks. (Dunno about you, but at least I can't). If it's hard to prepare our hearts for the average human, how can we prepare our hearts for the everlasting Lord?

Maybe some of it has to be the "logistics"--praying the hours or lighting the Advent candles, reading the Scripture passages and singing the hymns. Those open the way for us to open ourselves. And then it's hearing the story, imagining God come to earth as infant. In the case of our congregation and probably many others, it's seeing two parents lift their own new baby, wrapped in swaddling clothes, toward the sky as "Hark! the Herald Angels Sing" echoes from the rafters. In that moment, something is sacred about real life, something is present from the past, and even from the future. Maybe, in however we respond to that scene, we are preparing.

Funnily enough, no matter what other types of preparation I've done during Advent, that moment--a baby lifted proudly like Simba on Pride Rock, "mild he lays his glory by, born that we no more may die"--always feels fresh, washing over me anew every time, every year. Like when I met my husband or found another kindred sister or held our niece for the first time or welcomed Lucy the lab into her new home. There's hope again.

I think the truth is that we are always preparing. We never stop preparing room for God in our hearts. And through this ongoing preparation, we are preparing room for others--the people we feel connected to automatically, and, more importantly, the people we don't automatically think of. And so Advent marks another year of doing our best to prepare; another fresh sign of hope to keep us going. Another reminder that when we stop and think about it, God can show up in the world through us, regardless of the season.

Advent 2.5: Turn your heart

As a child, Advent was frothy, overflowing with cookies and wreaths. We sang: Advent is the time to wait, not quite time to celebrate. We waited for school to end, waited for Christmas morning, waited to rip open presents.

As an adult, I still cherish the froth, but I also chase transformation. I sing: Long lay the world in sin and error pining, 'til He appeared and the soul felt its worth. I wait to understand, I long to see clearly, I yearn to strike the light.

So this year, I added a new Advent practice: praying the hours.


I first prayed the hours this past Lent, using Phyllis Tickle’s The Divine Hours. As Advent approached, I knew that I wanted to do it again, and so I ordered Tickle’s Christmastide: Prayers for Advent Through Epiphany from The Divine Hours. The book contains guided liturgy, Scripture, and prayer for morning, midday, and evening. It’s a mini-worship service—not even 10 minutes—three times a day. You can even chant or sing the passages if you like (I’m sure my dog really appreciates this in the mornings). 


I’ll be honest: I’m one of those stereotypical progressive Christians who doesn’t read her Bible on a regular basis. It’s just never become part of my daily or weekly practice (save for Sunday mornings), even though my red third-grade Bible from Glenn sits loyally on my bedside table. Part of that, I think, is the overwhelmed feeling I get when I try to think of where or how or when to start reading the Bible regularly. Yes, I’ve taken Disciple, and yes, I know I could very well begin at “In the beginning…” but in the midst of the chaos of life, it’s felt hard to establish, or—dare I admit it—to want to establish a routine in this way. That might be a whole other blog post.

For now, I’ll say that praying the hours during these sacred seasons has meant that I more purposefully make time for this quiet prayer, praise, and supplication. I sing the morning prayers out loud at the breakfast table, alone in the house with the obliging dog. I close my office door at lunch, turn away from the computer, and speak them to myself. On the bus home surrounded by other humans, I chant them in my head...

Read the rest of this piece that I wrote for my church's weekly blog here.

Advent 2.4: Fractured thoughts


I must admit, I'm struggling again today. We had our office Christmas luncheon; my free time reading has included articles like "White Women Need to Get Their Shit Together" and "Roy Moore's White Female Voters are Are Part of a Long History of Internalized Misogyny." And honestly, I'm trying to figure out how those very true and self-convicting statements pertain to Advent, to this time of anticipating Christ's arrival in the world. Because somewhere in my heart, I feel like they do. I also don't feel like I have enough energy to tackle that with the mind, heart, and soul work that it requires tonight. But I aim to challenge myself to do that in the coming days.

Tonight, I keep coming back to hymns.

Let every heart prepare Him room.

Long lay the world in sin and error pining, 'til He appeared, and the soul felt its worth.

Lo, flower whose fragrance tender with sweetness fills the air--dispel in glorious splendor, the darkness everywhere.

Give up your strength the seed to nourish, that in course the flower may flourish.

Alleluia, everlasting God come down.

[Photo by Jon Tyson on Unsplash]