Prepare Your Heart and Make Him Room

I rushed into Target to grab some last minute things.

I was in that danger zone of time where if I didn’t take any extra turns in the store, got through the checkout line quickly and hit all the lights green, I could still pick up Ella on time from practice. 

I scanned to find the shortest available line, and as if on cue, people came from out of nowhere and filled in the lines with their overflowing carts. I sighed and took my spot at the back. 

So much for barely making it on time…now I was officially late.

Then for the first time, I heard the music playing in the store.

“‘Tis the season to be jolly, fa la la la la, la la la la.”

To be honest, I felt far from jolly at that moment.

I felt rushed, stressed, and overwhelmed.

Feelings I’m familiar with as I head into the craziness of December each year.

The Stress of Getting Christmas Right

I feel enormous pressure to get Christmas “right.” 

This isn’t pressure anyone puts on me, I put it there myself. 

I want to get it right by my kids, my spouse, and my loved ones.

And I want to have a heart that’s primed to worship the Lord during this season.

However, I’m usually preoccupied (alright…slightly obsessed) on getting through my to do lists.

I reason that after that is accomplished…THEN I can focus my heart on the reason for the season.

An Ancient Phrase with Modern Meaning

So in my own search for ways to clear the clutter of my mind and prepare him room; I’m reminded of the beauty of this little latin phrase to rest and enjoy God…otium sanctum. 

It means enjoying God through the practice of holy leisure.

Pursuing otium sanctum is ultimately about enjoying God, and living authentically like we enjoy God. 

It’s about…

→ Seeking to grow in wisdom that informs our priorities, pursuits and interests. 

→ Being at peace (especially when suffering), as we abide in Christ.

→ Learning to rest, even when things are left undone, because Christ’s work is finished on our behalf.

→ Living fully in the moment, (i.e. looking up from our phones) to appreciate the beauty in people and creation all around us.

→ It’s about working with the Holy Spirit, knowing our transformations take time.

→ And glorying in the fact that our deficiencies are a greater platform for Christ’s grace to be displayed in and through us.

I want to live like that! Do you?

6 Practical Ways You Can Apply More Holy Leisure to Your Advent

Our job is not to make an idyllic Christmas for our families this year. 

It’s not about trying to make everything perfect, memorable, and Instagram-worthy. 

It’s about enjoying more of God, more of each other, and having pure motivations behind what we do.

Here’s how to do it…

1. BALANCE: Seek wisdom when tempted to go overboard 

If ever there’s a time of year when it’s culturally approved to go overboard, it’s December.

If we’re not careful we can overdo a lot of things, like our eating, spending, socializing, and merry-making.

Finding balance comes from a place of seeking the Lord for wisdom.

We often feel off-balance, when we’re taking on too much, afraid to say ‘no,’ or don’t restrain our own flesh.

“If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him. But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for he who doubts is like a wave of the sea driven and tossed by the wind.” 

James 1:5-6

The Lord loves it when we seek his wisdom. Let’s ask for a liberal outpouring of it this season in the things we say ‘yes’ to, and the way we participate in celebrating.

2. PEACE: Experience it when you intentionally spend time with Him

If we want to experience true peace this season, we’re probably not going to find it in our circumstances (‘cuz it’s 2020, right?).

Peace isn’t a warm fuzzy that fills your heart just because we sing, “Peace on earth and goodwill toward men.” 

The angels came to announce peace to the shepherds in the field.

“Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!”

Luke 2:14

This wasn’t an ushering in of world peace, but peace among those with whom he is pleased. 

We have peace with God. Do we even realize how radical this is?

And since we have peace with him, let’s also receive the peace that comes from him.

Get to know him more deeply and personally this season. 

Set time aside in your calendar (literally make it a standing appointment), to open his word and feast upon it. 

I’ll place my bets that this step alone will do more to radically change your outlook on Christmas than anything else you do!

3. REST: Your ‘lack’ (time, money, bandwidth) is an invitation to rest in him.

Every Christmas I am acutely aware of my lack. 

  • I feel a lack of time to do the things I know I should and sometimes want. 
  • A lack of resources to accomplish what I’ve wanted (but I’ve always had what I’ve needed). 
  • And always a lack of bandwidth or energy to enjoy all that the season has to offer.

But feeling a lack of _____, isn’t always a bad thing.

When time, money, and energy are in short supply, we wait in confident hope and expectation. 

We wait and trust in wonder, just like Mary did in her Magnificat.

“And his mercy is for those who fear him

    from generation to generation.

He has shown strength with his arm;

    he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts;

he has brought down the mighty from their thrones

    and exalted those of humble estate;

he has filled the hungry with good things,

    and the rich he has sent away empty.”

Luke 1:50-53

Instead of focusing on what you feel is lacking, turn your heart to waiting (and resting) in him. 

In your striving, are you trying to make yourself independent of his help? He invites you to rest.

“Come to me all you who are weary and burdened and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” 

Matthew 11:28-30

4. BEAUTY: Be intentional about making Christ glorious in your heart and home 

Christmastime is abnormally beautiful. 

Beauty is everywhere, the snow (if you live outside of Phoenix!), the lights, the music, the sparkle.

It IS all so beautiful, and I love all of it!

But do you ‘ooh’ and ‘ahh’ more over all the periphery of Christmas, than you do about the incarnation?

Your kids will delight in the things you delight in.

Seek to make the most glorious aspect of Christmas the beauty of Christ against the backdrop of sinful humanity. 

That is beautiful.

Pray to see it afresh.

I love this stanza from ‘Hark! The Herald Angels Sing’

Christ, by highest heav’n adored,

  Christ, the everlasting Lord:

Late in time behold Him come,

  Offspring of a virgin’s womb.

Veiled in flesh the Godhead see,

  Hail thy incarnate Deity!

Pleased as man with man to dwell,

  Jesus our Immanuel.

5. PACE: Enjoy the journey to ‘getting it all done”

Here’s where my Type-A-ness struggles. 

I want to magically arrive as quickly as possible to the destination of being ‘done’.

Each year I catch myself thinking, “I can’t wait till I’m all done, and then I can really enjoy Christmas.”

But sometimes I’m not ‘done’ until Christmas Eve! Where does that leave me? 

Crawling across the finish line and then POOF, Christmas is over!

This year, I’m focusing on enjoying each step of the journey, not just the final destination.

I want to be controlled less by my timeline, agenda, and expectations, and more by the Holy Spirit. 

“For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven.”

Ecclesiastes 3:1

“If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit.” 

Galatians 5:25

We’ll all get there. We always do. Let’s enjoy the bumpy ride.

6. GRACE: I’m not gonna get it ‘right’ that’s why I need grace!

As much as I want to get Christmas ‘right,’ I’m gonna fall short.

I’ll be short-tempered and snap at my kids. (They’ll nag me to take them shopping at the most inconvenient times, and make more than a few messes in the kitchen!)

I’ll get irritated with Tim. (He seriously can’t wrap a present to save his life, and we’re sure to not see eye-to-eye on a purchase or two or six.)

My heart will be prone to focus more on the periphery of ‘Christmas feels’ or try to live up to the expectations of Christmases past.

And most of all, I’ll fail at making Christ preeminent in my heart.

So in light of all this failure and more, I need to receive, and offer much grace!

Isn’t this what Christmas is really about?

We are inadequate, and we can’t do it all, no matter how hard we try.

And the Babe in the manger reminds me that he came to pay for my sins because I couldn’t do it myself. 

I desperately need him this Christmas.

“But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness. Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.” 

2 Corinthians 12:9

I won’t try to cover up my deficiencies with more activity this Christmas.

I won’t expect perfection from myself or others.

I’ll boast more gladly that these things drive me to the cross by way of the manger.

Christmas is coming! Is your heart ready?

6 Responses

  1. This was so helpful, so needed and so practical! Thank you for this encouragement. I need to focus on enjoying the journey of this season and not be so desperate to just “get it over with.” You’re incredible, keep it up!! 🥰

  2. This is such a needed reminder-not just at Christmas, but in the crush of daily life and challenges. Mindfully seeking God’s rest leads to receiving His strength.
    Thank you, Cara

    1. This is such a needed reminder-not just at Christmas, but in the crush of daily life and challenges. Mindfully seeking God’s rest leads to receiving His strength.
      Thank you, Cara

      1. Thanks for your comments! I agree. It’s where I want to live daily, but being ever more mindful during Advent! <3

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