Monday Matters (December 19, 2022)


The Collect for the Fourth Sunday of Advent

Purify our conscience, Almighty God, by your daily visitation, that your Son Jesus Christ, at his coming, may find in us a mansion prepared for himself; who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen

In coming days, Monday Matters will offer reflections on the prayers we say in church on Sunday, the collect of the day. We do this based on the conviction that praying shapes our believing, that what we pray forms us. We do this hoping that the prayers we say on Sunday will carry us through the week.

Making room

Lord, let not our souls be busy inns that have no room for thee or thine, but quiet homes of prayer and praise, where thou mayest find fit company, where the needful cares of life are wisely ordered and put away, and wide, sweet spaces kept for thee; where holy thoughts pass up and down and fervent longings watch and wait thy coming.

-Julian of Norwich

This Advent season, I’ve been thinking a lot about what it means to prepare the way of the Lord. Hymns and scripture and liturgy tell us it’s the reason for the season. But what does that actually look like in life? The prayer we heard yesterday in church, and the prayer from Julian of Norwich printed above tell us it’s about making room for Jesus. Again, what does that look like?

Does it call for a spiritual bulldozer? A teardown? Do I need to park a dumpster in my spiritual driveway to get rid of junk? How can I envision my life as a mansion prepared to welcome Christ, when my life often feels like a small studio apartment with no closet space?

One of the ways we might begin to create that space is to enter into the counter-cultural, contemplative call of the season. During Advent, the church invites us to slow down and be quiet when almost every other message we get tells us to hurry up, take in all the noise and do a lot of stuff, fueling the anxiety that we maybe did not do enough. Even in the church, we don’t always get that message right. A friend who worked in a big church used to sport a button around this time of year. The button read: Jesus is coming. Look busy. It got a chuckle but I think it’s the exact opposite of what we’re called to do.

Centuries ago, mystic Julian of Norwich crafted the prayer which helps us think about what it means to get that mansion ready. She recognized that the inner life can be very much like a busy inn, a “No Vacancy” sign prominently displayed. Lots of coming and going. Nothing settled. Does your life ever feel like that? Do you enjoy that feeling?

The alternative Julian presented was a quiet home of prayer and praise, with company fit for God’s presence. She envisions our cares put aside. Wide, sweet spaces are kept. (I love that phrase: Wide, sweet spaces. I want those spaces.)

We’re just a few days away from Christmas. How will you prepare to welcome Christ into your life in this holiday season, and in the coming new year? How can you create space for that to happen?

It might begin with asking God for help, adding to those prayers an attitude of gratitude, which can often give breathing room. It can also involve a rigorous look at the ways we spend our time. Can we carve out quiet time each day this week, even if it’s only a few minutes, to reflect on the miracle we’re about to celebrate?

It may involve rigorous choices about what we will do and what we decide we won’t do. Take a walk each day to think about all this. Jot down thoughts to clarify your thinking. The church, with its variety of worship opportunities, can help. And one of the key ways to make room for Jesus at any time of year, is to figure out how to be of service, to take a moment to look around at the needs that surround and ask: How can I help?

This week’s prayers suggest that we have agency in all of this. We can choose to make room for the Christ child. What will that look like in your life in these days before Christmas?

-Jay Sidebotham

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