Advent intentionality begins with dumping clutter

  Peter Finney Jr  For me, the “sorry, no vacancy” sign is the flashing neon symbol of Advent. Just as there was no room at the inn for Mary in which she could give birth to the savior of the world, how often do we – 2,000 years later – allow our crowded lives to make “no room” for Christ?
    The frenzy of pre-Christmas shopping got kicked up a few notches this year by several national chains, including Target, which launched a preemptive strike on Black Friday by unlocking their doors on Thanksgiving.
    If the Christmas sweater buried under a stack of other Christmas sweaters is the gauge of our readiness for Christ, then we have missed a graced opportunity to empty ourselves of the clutter and everything else that blinds us to the things that count.
    In my parish church there is a young couple who had tried for nearly three years to conceive before going through the adoption process. About seven months ago they were awarded temporary custody of an infant son, and as the weeks have passed, Andrew is growing in the second pew before our eyes.
    “Please pray for us,” Andrew’s mom told me last week. “We may find out this week if the adoption is final. The birth mother still has not signed the papers relinquishing her parental rights.”
    Talk about watchful waiting during this Advent.
    Another friend has a 5-year-old who has been diagnosed with pediatric bipolar disorder. She and her husband plan to take their son to a nationally recognized medical center in January for a week of extensive testing.
    More expectant waiting.
    Life in Christ compels us to stay vigilant at all times.
    The Gospel reading for the First Sunday of Advent (Mark 13: 33, 36-37) summarized the way in which God comes to us in the form of ordinary events and ordinary people, which we may miss if we are clouding our vision with things and stuff.
    “Be watchful! Be alert! You  do not know when the time will come. May he not come suddenly and find you sleeping. What I say to you, I say to all: ‘Watch!’”
    Advent is a time to be more intentional in everything we do. Is there a family relationship that needs the salve of a comforting word or a pledge of forgiveness?
    Is there a parish ministry that could use your talents rather than a simple monetary donation?
    What role could you play as a mentor to a child without the advantages of an intact family?
    In order to offer ourselves, we first need to empty ourselves and allow God to fill us and transform us.
    “Yet, O Lord, you are our father; we are the clay and you the potter: we are all the work of your hand” (Isaiah 64: 7).
      Peter Finney Jr. can be reached at

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