One reason I love having visitors is that it motivates me to clean house. My tendency to put some chores off until necessary became embarrassingly evident to me a few years ago when my daughter saw me cleaning the toilet and asked, “Is someone coming over?” While I do clean at other times, somehow, when I know visitors are coming, I clean with purpose and energy, I keep up my momentum, and I get better results. I love that feeling of everything in its place, floors clean, corners dusted. I know the house won’t stay this way for long, but for one brief shining moment my corner of the world is right, and I am ready to welcome my visitors into my home.
I would love for my home to always be in order. But sometimes I find it hard to motivate myself to do something that I know will quickly be undone simply by living. But a deadline – the arrival of a guest at my door on a certain day at a certain time – has the power to motivate me when my natural desire for a clean home does not.
I’m sure you can see where I’m going with this. During Advent (from the Latin advenire, “to come”), we are waiting for the arrival of a guest. Not just any guest, but one we surely want to impress, one we will welcome into our homes, one we wish to honor and respect by making all the necessary preparations. We are always waiting for the Christ – for his birth, his return, his coming into our hearts and lives. But sometimes we need a deadline – in this case, December 25th – to motivate us to do those things that prepare us for his coming. Sometimes we need a deadline to get our homes in order. The numbered weeks and days of Advent – like the 40 days of Lent – are a gift of limits. With all the time in the world, we may never get around to the “extras” we need to do to get ready – extra time for prayer, quiet or reading our Bibles, going to confession, going on retreat, spending more time with loved ones, serving those around us. But with a deadline, we have purpose and energy, we have some momentum, and we get results.
When Ordinary Time comes around again, we may feel a bit like we do when Cheerios once again litter the floor, the dishes are piled in the sink, the fridge handle gets sticky, and the dust settles back onto everything. There is always work to be done. But for one brief shining moment, all was right in our corner of the world. Our Savior was born, and we were ready.