Saturday, December 8, 2012

Closets and Christmas

Last night I was overcome with a sudden urge to do something I don’t typically do—I cleaned out my closet. The urge doesn’t strike very often, so when it does, it stalks me until satisfied.

I have a laundry basket in the top of my closet that collects things; you know, faded jeans, oversized sweatshirts, exercise gear, a lonely sock here and there, coins, etc. I filled several bags with clothes, which will be donated. It felt good to engage in wardrobe inventory and the disciplined pursuit of less!

I really wasn’t expecting the experience to render any deep significant insight until I woke up this morning. It struck me that closet cleaning, especially at this time of the year, seems metaphorical. How so?

Well, it’s Advent. If you happen to be a person who didn’t grow up in the church or is not familiar with the ancient Christian Church calendar, the word Advent probably has no meaning. Advent is a season that marks the beginning of the Christian Church year. It is celebrated during the four Sundays preceding Christmas Day. The Church has observed the season for centuries. The word Advent means “arrival” and the season is intended to teach us to wait for the coming of Christ, not just in Biblical times, but now. It’s a time of preparation and anticipation.

This got me thinking about John the Baptist. According to Luke (the writer of the third Gospel in the New Testament) John the Baptist was the fulfillment of a centuries old announcement by an old prophet named Isaiah. You can read about it in Luke 3:1-6.

John arrived on the scene to help people prepare for the coming of Jesus. But in what ways were the people to prepare, and in what ways can we prepare to welcome Jesus into the places of our world? John’s message gives us a clue:

“Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight. Every valley shall be filled, and every mountain and hill shall be made low, and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough ways smooth. And all flesh shall see the salvation of God.” Luke 3:4-6

The Advent season is a lot like closet cleaning. It’s like inventory. In what ways have the paths of my life become crooked? Are there emotional valleys in my life that I have intentionally or unintentionally tried to fill with my pace, my possessions, my positions or my performance? Have I allowed my ego to become mountain-like, puffing and blustering about my own importance or superiority? What about my relationships—my relationship with my spouse, my family, my friends or even my extended church family? To what extent could these relationships be smoothed out so that God could be seen more clearly in me?

S t r e t c h e d,