Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God (Matthew 5:8).
At the dawn of the holiday season with all its demands, you risk a kind of loneliness. It comes even among loved ones. It is alienation from yourself.
The holidays pull you in many directions. Amid shopping and shipping, obligatory office parties and gifts, traveling to visit family both beloved and begrudged, accumulated traditions, accelerated cooking and clean up, and storing up stuff the children will soon forget, you scarcely have time to think. You forget why you rush about and spend so much in the first place. You lose your center.
Secretly you want to skip Thanksgiving and Christmas. On the other hand, you may lose yourself in the holiday demands, stampeding over your loneliness with frenetic activity. You may escape into your favorite addiction. You may bravely play the part for the sake of the kids. And perhaps, just perhaps, you may want to pass on the Lessons and Carols services and find a quiet place to pray, to worship in a silent night, a holy night, however cold the stars.
Take heart. You can turn the season to your faith’s advantage.
Advent is a season of waiting for God. While you wait, reacquaint yourself with yourself. You will better recognize God when God comes.
Slow down in a quiet place, and open your heart in God’s loving presence. Have a conversation with God and yourself. If you are honest about it, you may find that all the frenetic pursuit of what you are supposed to want masks uncertainty about your own needs and desires. Ask God to show you what you want in this season of anticipation. Don’t settle for an answer until you find something that it would feel like a loving gift from God. (That rules out a lot of garbage, including the expensive kind.)
Knowing what you want helps reacquaint yourself with yourself. God never asks you to put your desires aside and stoically concern yourself only with customer service to others. No, where your heart is, there your treasure will be also. And where your treasure is, the loving gaze of God is not far away.
So if you could pare the season down to the choicest parts, what would you keep, and what would you toss? When I search my heart, I want to keep simple pursuits. Prayer. Time with my wife. Reading scripture or good spiritual writing. Compassionate listening. Acts of kindness. Those activities reacquaint me with myself and offer praise to God in their own ways.
Resolve to reacquaint yourself with yourself, led by the simple desires of your heart. God will help you discern those desires. And those desires will help you discern God.