December. It’s easily one of the busiest months of the year for many of us. Between Christmas shopping, tree buying and trimming, house decorating, cookie baking, holiday parties, card writing and sending, traveling, and so on, our lives are hectic to say the least.
In the midst of all this external hubbub, we neglect a beautiful season of waiting and preparation for Christmas within ourselves. We forget about Advent: four weeks set aside to prepare our heart and soul for Christ, to feed our interior life.
This year, let’s change that. Let’s put Christ back into the center of the season and put our energy into making right our relationship with Him first and foremost.
We are called like John the Baptist to “prepare the way of the Lord, make straight His paths” in a spiritual sense in our own lives and in the lives of those we encounter. How do we do that and where do we start? Here are a few ideas.
1. Put Christ at the center of your life.
“And He said to him, ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment.'” Matthew 22:37-38.
Make your faith life a priority. Set aside time devoted to God, to worship Him in community at church at least every Sunday, to read and study His word, and to pray daily. Once God is first in our lives, the rest can fall into place.
2. Stop. Unplug. Seek quiet time to listen, to reflect to ponder.
“Watch therefore, for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming.”, Matthew 24:42.
We rush so much, running at breakneck speed, always busy. This perpetual busyness filled with technology at our very fingertips has made us more impatient and we’ve lost the art of waiting and the ability to just be. Advent is an opportunity and a call to wait for Christ and to prepare ourselves for his coming, not just in the here and now but also His second coming. We are called to be watchful. This requires us to seek out quiet time so that we can listen to God and for His call in our lives. Let us seek discernment of His will for us. So unplug, and strive to set aside time each day to be still and listen to what God is saying. If we neglect to set aside this time, everything else will crowd it out. We should never be too busy for Christ, our most important relationship.
3. Take stock of your life.
“If you love Me, you will keep My commandments.” John 14:15.
At the end of the day, make an assessment. How has God blessed me today? How am I doing in my relationship with God? How am I doing in my relationship with others? What am I struggling with and need to change? What did I do well? Keeping track of where we are and making changes to keep on track works wonders for growing closer to God and being more aware of how He’s working in our lives.
4. Bolster your prayer life.
“Rejoice always, pray constantly, give thanks in all circumstances: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18.
Make prayer second nature. In addition to setting aside special time for prayer, make it a constant part of your life. Pray when you wake, as you eat breakfast, as you drive to work, throughout your day. Offer up prayers of Thanksgiving, prayers of supplication asking for blessings and aid for yourself and others, prayers of worship and adoration, and prayers for those who’ve asked you to pray for them.
5. Make giving a habit.
“Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God.” Hebrews 13:16
Giving is an integral part of the Christmas season. We spend hours searching for the perfect gift for family and friends and we are glad to give to those in need through gifts for disadvantaged children or the Santa hat clad Salvation Army bell ringers. This spirit of giving should continue throughout the year. We should seek opportunities to serve our communities and give back of the blessings God has bestowed upon us. Look for opportunities to give of your time through volunteering. Give also of your money to the church and to those in need through charity. Offer up your talents as well to further God’s kingdom, perhaps by singing at church or in a nursing home or by helping to build or repair homes for the poor.
6. Choose joy and share your joy with those you meet. Be a witness to Christ by the way you live your life.
“But sanctify the Lord in your hearts. Always be ready to give an explanation to anyone who asks you for a reason for your hope.” 1 Peter 3:15.
Happiness is an emotion but joy is a choice. Everyday we can choose to be joyful regardless of our circumstances. The grace of God allows us to feel His love and share it with the world. We should give witness to the transformation He’s wrought in our lives by the way in which we live and how we treat others. We need not be afraid to speak up and share the gospel since we have His Spirit to strengthen us.