Stress during Advent

Advent, as we all know, is a time of preparation. We know, that amidst the chaos that often accompanies this time of year, we should be preparing a spot in our hearts for Jesus. We don’t want our hearts to be so full of busyness that they, like the inns in Bethlehem, have no room for the Savior. So we may try to carve out some extra prayer time in order to make room in our hearts for Jesus. This is good and necessary, and I do not at all want to discourage this! Please, make time for prayer this Advent! However, I want to offer another avenue that may be an overlooked but very effective way of preparing for Jesus to come more fully into our lives during this holy season.

The simple method I want to propose is that of recognizing our incredible need for a Savior. If we do not recognize this need in a real and constant way, then our reception of Jesus will be merely something we treat as an “add-on” to our lives rather than a totally life-changing encounter with the Savior. You can only welcome the Savior properly and fully if you are convinced that you need saving!

Consider your to-do list right now. Perhaps you have gifts to buy, gifts to wrap, cards to mail, cookies to make, meals to plan, parties to attend, awkward family gatherings to navigate, travelling to do, etc. On top of this you have normal life to deal with: work, meals, sicknesses, bills, etc. And, of course, you may struggle with a nagging feeling of just not being spiritually prepared for Christmas. Some of you may have areas of much deeper pain and/or stress; you know what they are. This is one of the most stressful times of year for many people. The stress may distract you from Jesus. You may think (albeit somewhat subconsciously), After I get my stuff together I will be fit to welcome the Savior. Why do you need a savior if you can get your stuff together?

The other option is that the stress can actually prepare you for Christmas. The stress can lead you to believe that you cannot cope on your own, that you need to be saved! You need Jesus to sort out all of the things that are causing you worry right now. Every time you feel overwhelmed during this Advent season, try praying something like this: O yes, Jesus, I need You! As You said, apart from You I can do nothing! (see John 15:5) Come, Lord Jesus, come into my life! You take care of this!  By practicing this many times every day, you should feel incredibly needy by Christmas. This experience of the reality of your own neediness will open your heart in a very real way to receiving the Savior of the world, and not just of the world but of your world.

So I encourage you, as God encourages me, to not be afraid of your weakness, your stress, and your neediness. God is not at all surprised by it. He knows we are but dust (Psalm 103:14). And He longs to hear us cry out to Him: Father, I need you! Jesus, I need you! Holy Spirit, I need you! He longs to hear this cry because He longs to answer it. And in this spirit of neediness, we can await the promised Savior with open hearts.

By Clare Schiller