I want you to spend a good amount of time with the story of Jesus’ birth in the Gospel of Luke. Put yourself in the story.”
I nodded, agreeing to the task. “Then,” he said, “I want you to grab a pillow. And I want you to imagine that the pillow is the baby Jesus. I want you to embrace and hold that pillow tightly, imagining that the baby Jesus is being given to you, imagining that He was born just for you. Spend time with Him there.”
I did as I was told, and I cried and cried and cried.
I was in the middle of a silent retreat, where my spiritual director (a Jesuit priest) was leading me in the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius. In this exercise, He was leading me into becoming more vulnerable with Jesus, to begin an inner journey from a refreshed place of trust and openness.
It was a time of healing, where I let myself be vulnerable in the arms of the child Jesus or the pillow in my arms that I imagined was Him. As I allowed my heart to be free holding this child, this Savior, in my arms, I was disarmed. And the things that I had been holding onto came flowing and pouring and sobbing out of me.
This is just a small taste of what God wants for us during this upcoming Advent season. It saddens me, though, that instead of preparing ourselves for these life and heart-transforming encounters, we mostly grab and reach for the fake essence of Christmas. I’m saddened when I walk into a store in mid-October, and the Christmas merchandise is already out or that Starbucks has already put Christmas trees on its cups before we eat our Thanksgiving turkeys.
Christmas is SO much more than we could ever imagine, hope for, or fathom. And the greatest kindness and service we could do for ourselves (and those around us) is to stop. Dead. In. Our. Tracks.
It’s a time to sit and get still. Calm our heart, breath, and mind.
We should fathom for a second that the King of the universe is coming for us. To be born into our hearts to grant us abundant and eternal life.
If we don’t stop for a second, this Christmas miracle will float right by us.
God wants to do so much for us, but we are most often not ready for all He wishes to do.
Don’t get me wrong – I am not auditioning for the role of the Grinch who stole your Christmas! 🙂 This has been a difficult year, and I know we are all craving to feel good about the holidays and a new year. But, my hope and desire are that while enjoying all the beauty and tradition of what this season brings us, we will open ourselves up to new heights of a merry, joyful, spirit-filled, awe-inspiring, savior-anticipating Christmas.
You see, Jesus is prepared, ready, and longing to bring so many gifts to our hearts this Christmas, but we must know how to receive them. If our hearts are so focused and preoccupied with worldly things, we won’t know how to receive what could never compare with what’s under the tree.
The same priest who directed me in the spiritual exercise of imagining the baby Jesus as a pillow also told me a story. He once served as a university president, where he managed a group of women in his office. At one point, dissension grew among the women to the point where they were divided with a major lack of love and charity.
Then, one day one of the women brought her new baby granddaughter to the office. The priest observed that despite months and months of silence and coldness among these women, they suddenly congregated together around the child. They adored the infant, shared turns coddling it, and were enamored by the baby coos and giggles.
What was happening?
This child had transformed all odds for these women. The enemy had surely reigned in their midst before this event. Division had likely manifested into resentment, anger, bitterness, and who knows what else. And then, by simply being carried into a room in its grandmother’s arms and giving a few giggles and cuteness, the baby utterly transforms the scene and the spiritual aroma of the room. The baby overcame and defeated the darkness.
This is what Jesus wants to do for us! He is coming, and we are to prepare the way. He wants to transform our hearts the way He did for these women. He wants to sow love, peace, and joy in all the rooms of our hearts. But for Him to do that, we have to stop and watch for Him.
We have to turn our holiday frenzy into a time of waiting. Waiting on Him to come, love, and change us, and make us anew.
You see, you might not realize it, but there is a war going on inside of you. There is a war going on inside of me, too. I’m pulled in a million directions of my woundedness, ego, selfishness, vanity, greed, and laziness. Then there is my desire for good, to love, to help, to know God more. All these things compete with each other in my head and heart each day.
But I know, and you do too, that we cannot serve many Gods. God does not want to share us with anyone else.
A baby King is coming. He is coming to strike the earth boldly, to revolutionize this forsaken world and give us a glimpse of light, of hope, and life eternal. And He is not coming alone. He is coming with a celestial army to enter a battle for souls.
In the past, I admit I didn’t connect much to the Christmas mystery of the baby Jesus. I liked Christmas, of course, and all the cozy moments it offers. But my heart didn’t really connect or long for the baby Jesus. It wasn’t until someone invited me to spend time with the child Jesus in the Gospel that I began to feel differently about this significant birth event.
When I held that pillow, believing that the baby entered this world for me, my heart flinched in pain, in sorrow, in a desire to be free of the garbage that isn’t Jesus Christ. This is the cause that Jesus comes for–to set us free and stake His claim on the land of our hearts.
When the infant King comes, He comes to be received as the beloved guest of our hearts. And when He enters, He will do new, bold, and revolutionary things our human mind and intellect could never anticipate.
It is for this reason that we must celebrate Christmas with authenticity. It’s wonderful to feel excited, happy, and warm for this endearing time of the year. But we are missing out on so much if we do not pray, hope, and look out for the birth of Christ as infinitely more.
The infant Savior is coming and, in His power, Jesus will strike the earth in a bold, terrifying, and wonderful way. He is coming for you and me, with His armor of “tender mercy,” love, and peace. He will shine on the darkness and the shadow of 2020, and He will guide us in the way of peace (Luke 1:78-79).
What more could we ever need?