For many years now, Black Friday has signaled the start of the Christmas shopping season. By being so publicized, so in your face, so loud, it has overshadowed the beginning of a quieter season, the season of Advent. Advent signals the coming of Christ into the world. Advent is a season of anticipation.

Of this season, Oswald Chambers wrote, “Just as our Lord came into human history from outside, so He must come into me from the outside. Have I allowed my personal human life to become a Bethlehem for the Son of God?”

Advent is a time to prepare our hearts for Christ’s coming so that they might become, as it were, a present-day manger in Bethlehem for the Son of God, a manger ready to receive Him and His good gifts of hope, peace, joy, and love.

The spirit of Advent is a far cry from the hustle and bustle of the holiday pace, where one can become so consumed by days of preparation that Christmas day itself becomes anticlimactic. Of the hustle and bustle that has attached itself to this season, C.S. Lewis wrote, “Long before December 25th arrives everyone is worn out, physically worn out by weeks of struggle in overcrowded shops, mentally worn out by the effort to remember all the right recipients and to think out suitable gifts for them. They are in no condition for merry making, in fact, many look, far more, as if there had been a long illness in the house.”

Quite the opposite of that, Advent is a season meant to slow us down, it is a time to open windows of spiritual awareness where we prepare our hearts to become a present-day Bethlehem for the Christ-child.

Advent is about pausing, taking time to discover or rediscover the quiet mystery and wonder of the Incarnation, Emmanuel, God with us. “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call His name Emmanuel” (which means God with us)” (Matthew 1:23).

This mystery, like beauty, like truth, needs to be contemplated in stillness so that the wonder of it might grip our hearts.

So now, before you get caught in the avalanche of what the world calls Christmas, take some time to schedule some time to quiet your heart, to reread and contemplate the wonder of the Christmas story. It’s not too late to make room for Him. And if you will do that, I pray that God will fill your heart to overflowing with His hope, His joy, His peace, and His love, the gifts of Advent.