The busyness of the holiday season is well underway. Our calendars are quickly filling up with annual Christmas traditions, holiday parties and festivities, and frantic gift hunting where we can squeeze it in.
In all of the wonderful chaos, it’s easy to let the Advent season slip by unnoticed. Instead of preparing our hearts to behold the love that changed the world, we exhaust ourselves attempting to experience the fullness of the holiday season.
All of our efforts to wholly experience Christmas can cause us to miss out on it completely.
How can we prepare our hearts for Immanuel this Advent season?
- 1. Rest
Exhaustion can destroy our capacity to experience God’s presence in our lives. A lack of downtime in our over-committed schedules can quickly lead to higher levels of stress, irritability, and anxiety. These negative emotions can dim our awareness of God’s presence, which is why it’s critical to make time to rest; choosing to rest can refresh our spirit in deeply needed ways.
- 2. Reflection
Many of us struggle to find time to study Scripture, and yet our spiritual, emotional, and even physical health is dependent on it. Psalms 46:10 says, “Be still and know that I am God.” In this, we see the only way to experience God’s presence is by cultivating a still and quiet spirit. But this doesn’t mean we need to spend hours in solitude each day — even just 10 minutes dedicated to prayer and meditation can begin to transform our lives.
- 3. Gratitude
There is no better way to behold the miracle of God’s presence than to practice thankfulness. Take a few minutes each night to jot down things you are thankful for or make a list on your phone to scroll through daily. This small act of remembering God’s faithfulness will help you root out harmful lies about God’s character and foster an awareness of His continual presence — right down to the details of your life.
- 4. Giving
One of the most powerful ways to experience God’s love is by reflecting it to those around us. Rather than simply beholding the miracle that changed our lives, we can choose to become a part of it. When we pay for the coffee for the person in line behind us, drop off fresh flowers at a local nursing home, or provide a warm meal for a refugee family, we’re choosing to live out the love we celebrate each Christmas — which, in turn, opens our hearts to experience it even more deeply.
Immanuel — God with us — is the source of our peace in the midst of a broken and ever-changing world.
A.W. Tozer wrote, “We need never shout across the spaces to an absent God. He is nearer than our own soul, closer than our most secret thoughts.”
So this Advent season, let’s carve out time and take specific actions that will help us experience the surpassing peace of God’s presence with us … the gift that changes absolutely everything.