My fiancé and I had decided not to exchange presents this year, but all that changed the other day when we each acknowledged that we needed a couple of things.
He found a hat that he liked, so I grabbed it from his hands before he could get to the checkout line with it and bought it for him. When we got home, he said he didn’t know what to get me for Christmas. I told him I needed an insulated mug so I could take my coffee to work every morning. He then proceeded to put his coat back on. I told him he didn’t have to go get it right away. After all, it was almost 10 p.m. on a Sunday.
“So what are we going to open at Christmas?” I asked before he headed out the door.
“Our hearts,” he said.
It was a profound, simple answer to my question. And it was the best answer, because isn’t that what Advent is all about? Preparing to open our hearts to Jesus?
With all the commercialization of Christmas, we get so fixated on buying the right present that we forget the simplest and best Christmas present of all. And that is to open our hearts more fully to Jesus and to each other.
Have you ever seen that famous painting of Jesus knocking on a door, waiting to come in? And have you ever noticed that most of the paintings don’t have a handle on the outside of the door? I believe it’s because the door has to be opened from the inside. We’re the ones who have to open the door to let him in.
It reminds me of Revelation 3:20:
Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me.
How can we open our hearts more to Jesus? For me, spending time in prayer and meditation is one way. I talk to him in prayer, and I listen to him in meditation. I sit in the silence and I do my best to still my thoughts so I can hear his guidance more clearly.
We also open our hearts to Jesus when we greet the presence of the divine in every person we meet—whether that person is someone we already know or a stranger we encounter during the course of our day.
During our daily morning meditation time, I also asked Francis, my fiancé, what he thought. “How can we open our hearts more fully to Jesus this season and always?” I asked. It helps to do an inventory of ourselves and how we spent our time during the last year, he said. Were we stingy with it? Did we give the people who needed to talk to us our full attention? Did we open our hearts to them? Did we really listen with our hearts or were we in a hurry to get home?
When I did a quick inventory of myself over the past year, I discovered that I’ve come up short more than once. Sometimes I do not give people my full attention when they are talking to me. I get distracted with my own thoughts for one reason or another. Or I am in a hurry to get home or somewhere else.
During this season of Advent and always, I want a heart that is more open to Jesus. So I am going to make a conscious effort to slow down and listen more. I want to be more conscious of the moments when someone really needs my full attention. That is a gift I can give all year long. And I believe if I give that gift, I will be opening my heart more fully to Jesus.
Lord, please help me be more present to people around me. Help me to listen more and to not be in such a rush to get to my next destination. Help me to recognize the divine in every person I meet, and to greet others as if I am greeting you. Help me to have a heart like yours, Jesus.