Come, Lord Jesus!
Last week, I went away on retreat to the Holy Cross Abbey in Berryville, VA. The monastery is home to Trappist monks. As part of their ministry, their Retreat House offers space for guests to share in the rhythm and silence of monastic life. Set in the Shenandoah Valley, the abbey is a peaceful setting to rest and be recreated in the Spirit of God. Everything is beautiful in its own way: cattle in the field, magnificent trees, the cloister and its graceful chapel, benches alongside the meadows, wonderful trails where you can hear the current of the Shenandoah River, the calls of the hawks, and the songs of the white-crowned sparrows and the blue jays.
Retreats at the abbey are silent, unstructured, and self-guided. This gave me the opportunity to pray with Advent scripture passages and themes. As I prayed with passages from Isaiah and the Gospels of Mark and Luke, I pondered about preparing the way of the Lord. Advent is a time to prepare our minds and hearts for the spiritual birth of Jesus at Christmas. It is also a season to prepare and reorient our lives in joyful expectation for the Second Coming of Christ.
Come, Lord Jesus.
As I pondered about preparation, I felt little pangs of worry about adding more items to my to-do list. I told Jesus I was not willing to turn this season into extra work. I renounced any inclination to convert Advent into a project to be managed. As a recovering perfectionist – or someone who constantly relapses with perfectionist tendencies – I am too familiar with the suspicion that I have to workout my own salvation. And that this requires its own excel sheet.
‘Prepare ye the way of the Lord’ triggered thoughts of getting home ready for the holidays: decluttering, deep cleaning, and decorating. A ‘perfectly’ cozy home sounds nice but all the work associated with this gave me hives. I wanted something easier and more life-giving. Jesus noticed my apprehension and nudged me in a different direction. I started noticing in scripture words and phrases about creating space, making room, and growing in receptivity. I found consolation in mental images about emptying myself to receive the ‘newborn King’ in my heart.
Lord Jesus, come.
Those images led to moments of softness and peace. The thought of baby Jesus nestled in my heart was soothing and comforting. After all, Advent is the season to prepare our heart to receive Christ anew. Christ must be born from every soul, formed in every life as Christ was formed in the womb of Mama Mary. She models for us what it means to receive – not as a passive bystander but as someone who eagerly accepts what God wants to give. With this ponderings, eagerness and curiosity began to create room in my heart.
We are a bit more than a week away from Christmas. I am eager to help God make space in our lives for what he wants to give us. In the upcoming days, I invite us to ponder together. How can we prepare room for Christ in our hearts, minds, and lives? How can we create space to receive the joy of the gift God wants to give us? How can we grow in freedom to receive and share the love of God? How can we pray for God to continue to form us into a community of reception and hospitality? How can we be a church that lets the Christ Child grow to full stature in our worship, in our fellowship, and in our service to the world?
I am confident none of this requires a committee or an excel sheet. Perhaps only the willingness to slow down, make room for God and others, and be present to the present God wants to bestow on us.
Pray with me: Come. Lord. Jesus. And don’t delay.
– Father Santi Rodriguez