Let every heart prepare Him room
Happy Advent! The past couple weeks have been filled with Christmas preparation. The Ignite interns decorated the Rock House, attended the Cincinnati Zoo’s Festival of Lights, exchanged Secret Santa gifts, and planned JSC’s annual Christmas party.
Amidst these preparations, the slower pace of December also invited me to embrace the stillness of Advent in prayer and reflection. This month, the youth ministry team finished our group study of Emma J. Justes’ book Hearing Beyond the Words: How to Become a Listening Pastor.
Her book opened my eyes to how much I struggle to truly slow down and wholeheartedly listen to others. Prior to reading Justes’ book, I thought that pastoral listening was all about knowing the right questions to ask and keeping the speaker engaged in the conversation. But I quickly learned that listening is much more about how you prepare your heart to welcome and receive the speaker as a guest. Justes observes that listening and hospitality are intrinsically connected:
Receiving, whether in the practice of hospitality or in listening, does not happen with closed hands, crossed arms, or a clenched heart. Being able to receive another with listening hospitality requires willingness and ability to be open to the other—with hands, arms, and hearts open and ready to receive.
Without preparing my heart to listen, my personal worries or my fear of being an inadequate listener can close my heart from receiving the speaker as a guest.
This Advent, I am trying to take time each day to pause and listen for what God wants to speak to me through the people in my life and in prayer.
Yet, no matter how much I try to prepare my heart to receive Jesus at Christmas, I know I will never be my idea of the “perfect host.”
Still, Jesus wants to be far more than a guest in our lives. He desires to make a home in our hearts.
I have learned that if I just open the door of my heart, God always receives the messiness of my doubt, anxiety, sadness, anger, and darkness.
Jesus wants to enter our lives and heal us. He wants to bring us the healing we hope for.
Despite my best efforts, I cannot heal my own brokenness. In God alone, I find the perfect peace and healing my broken heart longs for.
How are you preparing room in your heart for God this Advent?
What in your life needs healing this Christmas?