Don’t rush the countdown.

Advent 4—Year C, Micah 5:2-5a, Canticle 15, Hebrews 10:5-10, Luke 1:39-45 (46-55)

How many days until Christmas? How many hours? Minutes—can anybody do that calculation? Oh, it’s sooooo close. We can almost reach out and touch it. We are leaning hard into it. We’ve lit our fourth candle. Even the flowers are whispering, “It’s almost here.” It’s so hard to hold this Fourth Sunday of Advent space, but we get four Sundays of Advent for a reason. While the whole world is tipping toward Christmas, there is this Advent counterbalance that says, “Not yet. Not quite yet.” Today, it’s all Advent, all day long. We need more time. We need more time to get ready. Goodness, Christmas Eve is tomorrow, and there is still so much to do.

But before you count your lucky stars that you still have a day and a half, 40 hours, 2400 minutes, to scurry around and do that last minute shopping, cooking, wrapping, cleaning, the Collect for today would have us direct our attention to a different kind of preparation. “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…” Yes, we still have some errands to do before the big event, but it’s the interior cleaning to which we most need to attend. Amidst all the busyness flying around us, we are called to be still. In the midst of the noise, we are called to be quiet. In the midst of holiday cheer and “ho, ho, ho,” we are called to stand in the refiner’s fire and let ourselves be purified. You see, it’s not just we who are preparing for this birth, but God is preparing for this birth also. God is visiting us, even today, working to carve out this space in our hearts, a beautiful spacious mansion, that will house God’s very self.

So, as God visits your heart today, as God visits your soul, what does God find? Is there a lot of clutter lying around? Does it look like the storage room in my basement—is there so much stuff, that it’s hard even to find a pathway through? Has your heart become a storage room stuffed full of regrets about the past or worries about the future? Instead of that chorus of Christmas carols like you hear in the stores, do you have a chorus of conversations ringing in your head, conversations with people with whom you are in conflict? Are you wrapping up past hurts and tying them with a bow of resentment that you will gladly unwrap and replay at some future time? Are you running through all the people in your life busy making your own list of who’s been naughty and who’s been nice? What are those things, inside of you, that are so crowding your soul that might cause you to hang a sign on your heart, “No room in the inn?” Mary and Joseph are about to come knocking on your door; they are yearning for a space to give birth to the One who will change the world, will they find a “No Vacancy” sign, or will they find a mansion prepared for God’s very own self?

It’s not too late. It’s never too late to get ready to receive this child.

So, take some time today. Thank God for the gift of this time. Thank God that we have one more day to get ready. Thank God for the refiner’s fire that will purify us and ready us for this gift beyond all imagining. Do a scan of your heart and soul. If you’re like me, when company is on the way and the time is short, you grab a cardboard box or a garbage sack and you stuff all the clutter into it and tuck it in a closet somewhere.

Don’t do that with your heart.

No, expose all the clutter in your heart and mind and soul to the radiance of God’s love. Let God throw God’s heat and light on it. Let God’s love completely dissolve all that stuff that is in the way. Let God prepare the mansion that is spacious enough to hold this precious Divinity. You don’t need to stuff any of this clutter in some dark closet; the point is, you don’t need this clutter at all.

Whatever else you may still have to do between now and tomorrow night, do not neglect this interior work. Allow God to prepare this space in your heart. As the clutter dissolves and as this spacious, expansive mansion opens up inside of you, you may find that this spaciousness is indeed the greatest Christmas gift you could ever receive. Amen.

The Rev. Cynthia K. R. Banks
St. Luke’s Episcopal Church, Boone, NC
December 23, 2012