Purify our conscience, Almighty God, by your daily visitation, that your Son Jesus Christ, at his coming, may find in us a mansion prepared for himself. - from this Sunday's opening collect
Two things jump out at me when I pray this special prayer for the fourth Sunday of Advent: God's invitation, and my response.
In advent, people are always getting visitations. The angel comes to announce to Mary that she will bear God's son. This Sunday, we'll read about an angel visiting Joseph, and assuring him that he should go ahead and marry Mary, even though she is pregnant (without his help). Such visitations seem like very unusual and special events. Visitations from God's messengers and direct encounters with God are always news of note throughout the bible, and so we could easily assume that they are rare occasions and that they occur only to people who are somehow special.
But our collect this Sunday seems to assume that God visits us all every day ("by your daily visitation") and that through these visitations we are given the opportunity to make a fresh new start, to come clean, to have a do-over ("purify our conscience"). The way I read this, each day God invites us into possibility. Have you had a bad habit? Today can be the day you can release it. Have you held a grudge? Today can be the day you find the help you need to release it. Have you been burdened by guilt? Today can be the day you admit and release it. Have you been taking poor care of your body or your diet? Today is the day you can find support to change it. Have you been putting off something important to you? Today can be the day you actually do it. Have you forgotten to pray or thank God regularly? Today you can begin again. Every day - every moment - God invites us into a fresh, new beginning. God provides us with a reset button.
The prayer then goes on to say that by receiving this invitation to start afresh, we are preparing a mansion for Christ to live in. We are sweeping out the cobwebs. Scrubbing off the dirt. Getting rid of the clutter and making room in our lives for Christ to take up residence. To take our oldaccumulated files off the hard drive and rely on Jesus' guidance to live day to day instead, whatever each day may bring.
This prayer reminds me that each day, every choice I make about either holding on to my own will or letting go into God's will creates a container of my life that is either spacious and free or crowded and tight. What level of trust and hospitality do I offer God in response to the generous invitation God gives me constantly to release my fears, my worries and my expectations and receive the liberating gift of new life?
May your Advent be a season of joyful expectation, deep trust and radical openness to God's daily visitations, that you may see afresh how God is inviting you to prepare a mansion in yourself for Christ's coming.