"Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful."
I don't know what it is about this fall but it's barely Thanksgiving and I'm anticipating Christmas already. I want to listen to familiar caroles, get lost reading advent books, bake my traditional holiday cookies, plan the Christmas Day dinner menu, write my annual Wish List, go shopping and decorate. Maybe it has something to do with being immersed in a holiday craft fair this past weekend or the early November snowfall on Monday. I'm not sure but, whatever the catalyst to this feeling, I'm excited to start the Advent season.
Thinking I was way ahead of the game, I cracked open an Advent devotional yesterday, titled Preparing My Heart for Advent by Anne Marie Stewart. To my surprise, I was already a week late in my preparation! Stewart starts what she calls "a spiritual pilgrimage" on November first. I put aside my disappointment and dive in, frantically trying to catch up to day eight.
As I eagerly wade through days one through four of this devotional, I'm challenged to read the nativity stories in Luke and Matthew with new eyes; to ask questions regarding missing information in the narratives; to create an historical travel timeline and to visualize the busyness Mary and Joseph experienced before and after Jesus' birth. But it was Stewart's question on day five that challenged me the most. "What about your timeline? How will you keep it uncluttered?"
I'm certainly eager to start the busyness of the season like I mentioned above. But of all those things and the OTHER things that could creep onto my calendar in December, what will give me peace? What will help me to focus on the birth of Jesus? What will enable "unhurried peace" as Stewart puts it?
First, I will be deliberate with my planning. Starting today, I will be selective with what goes on my calendar for the month of December so that I may make time for "unhurried peace."
Second, I will make time each day to be alone. Alone with my thoughts, alone to write, alone to prepare my heart and focus on the events of Jesus' birth and to anticipate his coming again.
Third, I will take time to play with my family; to laugh and share traditions and simple fun.
Fourth, I will create an atmosphere of peace in my home each day so that my husband may rest from his stressful, hurried days.
Finally, I will share my thoughts in writing to encourage others to prepare their hearts for this advent season.
You may think I'm crazy, anticipating Christmas six weeks in advance. But truly, in this fast-paced society, I think it will take me all six weeks to properly prepare my heart for that unhurried peace that comes when Christ rules in my heart. Are you up for the challenge?