Advent is supposed to be a time of anticipation, preparation and reflection. Sometimes in my busy life I need to slow down and listen to my heart. I need Advent. I need to stop running. Stop shopping. Stop planning. Just stop. And listen.
How often do I ask someone, “How are you?”, only to be told, “I’m fine.” And I’m off and running. Rarely does anyone tell me how they really are and sadly, if they do, chances are I really don’t want to hear the details. “Fine” is just fine. Putting on my brakes and listening, really listening takes time and requires me to engage; to be present; to care. This is not always convenient. And it’s definitely not easy.
At a time when everyone else is running around getting ready for Christmas, I need to sit quietly and think and perhaps pray but certainly LISTEN. My lovely wife sometimes asks, “Did you hear me?” “Huh?” is often my response. I hear stuff all the time but listening is different than hearing. Hearing is just the act of perceiving sounds, but listening is something that I must consciously choose to do. Listening requires patience, thoughtfulness and commitment – these are things that are often in short supply.
Of course the hardest person to listen to is myself. I’m a man of action. I like to get stuff done. Sitting and contemplating what needs to be done is a challenge for me. Give me a task and I’m on it. Put up the tree; decorate the house; wrap the gifts; hang the lights – easy stuff. I guess thinking about Jesus coming 2,000 years ago is easy enough. And I can slow down long enough to listen to some Christmas hymns and get my head and heart in the right place. But that’s not what Advent is about. It’s not just the anticipation of His coming as an infant in Bethlehem and His final coming at the end of time but it’s also about Jesus coming to me, right now, right here – and that gets a little messy and scary.
Advent is counter-cultural. It forces me to stop and listen to my own heart. I need to turn off Holiday television specials and the 24-hour-a-day Christmas radio and walk away from the Black Friday Sales long enough to hear what I can hear.
And in the stillness He will come.