Advent is about making space, I believe. One year we emptied out a spare bedroom, leaving only a rug and a makeshift altar. We were trying to have a baby without any luck, and we’d gotten tangled up in lots of well-intended advice from friends and family and strategies of our own. Exasperated one morning, Sarah said, “If I’m ever going to get pregnant, I’ve got to make some room for myself and this baby,” so I started moving furniture. It was silly, I guess, a young husband wanting to fix things, to act in response to his wife’s hurting instead of just being present beside her, but the physical labor settled us. It felt sacramental, the sweeping out and sorting through, a tangible prayer of preparation that made the waiting bearable.
It’s become a habit of the heart, this Advent clean-up. This year I vacuumed the dust bunnies from underneath the beds and washed all the baseboards and moldings. I’m not sure if it is strictly spiritual, but when I hear John the Baptist say, “Prepare the way of the Lord,” I grab a mop and bucket, lift chairs and roll up rugs. I am making space for something new to be born.
An old friend is being treated at Johns Hopkins this Advent, and while he recovers from surgery on the 12th floor, his wife, another dear friend, is staying with us. It’s a gift to be with them during such a tender time, as they navigate procedures and pathology reports, wrapping our family’s busy calendar around their simplified days: waiting, watching, wondering about what’s next. Holding their worry has stretched each of us, making crowded schedules feel more spacious. We’ve found room to hope, and time to listen and laugh and linger over meals. I think we are being prepared for whatever comes next.
Life is stirring within us, even in these dark December days.
“The prophet cries to prepare a way for the Promised One, and we panic. We write shopping lists, and head to the store for the treasures we must surely present. We survey with dread the mess of a heart we must clean up for the holy visitor. But after all the cleansing the house is still just our little place. The Gift is not to be found in any market. We fear our unpreparedness, our failure to adequately repent, still rushing, still dusting this and hiding that. In the din the Spirit speaks softy. We are not asked to clean the house for the weekend to impress the Unexpected Guest. We are asked to prepare a room and set a place at the table for the rest of our lives for the Beloved, the child who already dwells within.” (Steve Garnaas-Holmes)
Bless you this Advent. In you is always the space for God to be born.