“Not by appearance shall he judge, nor by hearsay shall he decide…” Isaiah 11:3b
I have a theory that every family has the same secret: our homes are messy when there are no guests.
Granted, when I go over to someone’s house, I am the guest, so I haven’t been able to verify my theory. Maybe this is a way to make me feel better about the chaos that is our home when no one is coming over.
Something about people coming over to the house makes us re-evaluate the state of things. The socks and shoes scattered across the floor become noticeable. The dishes in the sink are a scourge to humanity, and the family chooses one room to be the “dump stuff here until the guests leave” room.
I remember having guests over as a child: energized with the threat of “they’ll be here in twenty minutes! Put this pile of stuff in your bedroom.” Then there’s the wiping down of all the surfaces and setting the table for the guests. The ritual happens with all guests, even relatives, who already know you and can’t disown you over the bookshelf that you've never dusted.
There’s this strange instinct to put on a show for someone who’s coming over. We want to put our best foot forward—doubly so if it’s someone we are getting to know for the first time. Add the frantic "clean the house" mentality to the stress of accommodating large groups of people, and meal preparation. Thus, we have a recipe for holidays, dreaded as a time of work and exhaustion instead of a time of relaxation and community.
We’ve all heard this "cleaning house" metaphor when it comes to “preparing our hearts for Jesus.” But preparing our hearts for Jesus is different from cleaning house in a few ways. First, he knows the stuff we have in our houses, and we can’t hide the dirty laundry behind the closed door of the spare bedroom. There’s no fooling this guy.
Second, Jesus doesn’t want us to try to fool him. He doesn’t want us to bury all our secrets and family dirt in the dark. He wants to clean us, heal us, and make us whole, happy, holy people. It doesn't get much better than that.
Even when our houses and our hearts are a mess, and we’re having a hard time finding the time, space, and courage to clean things up, Jesus loves us anyway. He comes to us anyway. He’s the best friend, not the random acquaintance, who has seen it all, and is not deterred. He is here to help. This Advent, open the door and let him in.
Let us Pray,
Jesus, help me to open my heart to you this Advent. Teach me to trust in your care for me, and help me to look beyond appearances to seek your face in everyone I meet.Amen.
This reflection was written by Anna Schulten
This excerpt is taken from “Encounter: Advent Reflections for Catholics in Transition” by Anna Schulten. Anna is a Youth Minister at Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton Parish in Anchorage, Alaska. Learn more at annaschulten.com.