Preparing Our Hearts

This past Sunday, the first Sunday of Advent, we started our new sermon series, “We’re Pregnant!” In this series, we are looking at the familiar story of Jesus’ birth through the lens of new parents. In doing so, the hope is we see afresh how we might prepare to welcome Jesus in our lives again this Christmas and prepare to receive him on a daily basis. The first sermon centered on what parents do to prepare to for an expected child. Parents will get the nursery ready, buy needed baby supplies (e.g. tons of diapers!), and even prepare their hearts to receive the baby. A child changes a parent’s entire life. Not only does the physical space change around them, but their time and energy are refocused.

In the same way, as Christians we are always preparing to receive Jesus properly. This Christmas I challenged the congregation to consider how they might prepare their lives to be ready to receive Jesus. For some this may mean forgiving an individual who has wronged you, thus opening your heart to God’s love. For some it may mean making more time for family devotion. A good practice may be lighting an advent wreath at home with your family and reading the Bible stories which go along with each candle.

As part of my preparation, I started reading an Advent devotional. Today’s opening lines read, “If you want to follow Jesus… [you must] control what you take in everyday…Somehow you have to decide what your mind will receive (Henri Nouwen).” We are bombarded with all kinds of messages today. It’s not much different than days gone by. Yet, we do have control over what we receive and take to heart. It’s important for us to be aware of what we are ingesting in our hearts and minds. But more so, as Nouwen points out, “It’s not just about pushing bad things out, but a question of holding on to something really good.”

In other words, we know how to filter our daily lives. But do we take time to receive the good in life? Do we take time to meditate on how we have seen God at work? This season we may hear, “Greetings, I bring you good tidings of great joy,” but the question is will we be ready to receive it? All too often we focus on the negative of life, what if preparing our hearts to receive Jesus means not focusing on the bad of life, but listening and looking for the good. When we train our hearts to know and see the good in our lives, it becomes habit. Suddenly our outlook on life is transformed and we see God working often. As you prepare to receive Christ, I challenge you to hold on to something really good this season. After all, God is good.