In the Coptic Orthodox Church, we have begun the advent season: the Fast of the Nativity. As we were putting up the decorations around the house–the greenery on the mantle, the wreath on the door, the star on the tree–I was struck by the line “Let every heart prepare Him room” from “Joy to the World,” that powerful carol (first published in 1719).
Let Every Heart Prepare Him Room
On the night the Christ-child was born, there was no room at the inn. Now every believer is called to make room in his and her heart for Christ.
My children have this beautiful board book called Who Is Coming to Our House?, a tale of all the stable animals preparing room for the Holy Family. I highly recommend it. Every line is a delight.
“Sweep the earth,” says Chick.
“Stack the hay,” says Goose, “and quick!”
In our hearts too, this Nativity Fast is intended to give us time to sweep the earth and stack the hay within our own hearts, to prepare Him room. There is a reason this is the first fast of the year. This is the beginning. This is where it all starts. This is the fresh start.
Today, we will begin working on restoration–restoring our souls and restoring our bodies.
Restore Your Soul
Have you been feeling disconnected and melancholy lately? Has your soul been troubled within you?
I have been watching a lot of HGTV-type, home improvement, fixer-upper, renovation shows lately. First comes demolition day, when they rip out all the gross old stuff filling the house. Then, they piece it all back together with newer, shinier things. Finally, a designer comes in and puts out blue glass vases and fresh flowers and cutesy pillows.
Well, the Orthodox version of demolition day is getting outside yourself and giving everything into God’s hands.
A dear friend and kindred spirit has launched a new prayer campaign called 10@10! This campaign is the brainchild of the brilliant and multi-talented Sandra Mathoslah (@3lovenotes), songbird for Christ, public health warrior (literally), active duty pharmacist.
Introducing the 10@10 Campaign!
So what exactly is the 10@10 Campaign?
As the Body of Christ, during the Advent season, we commit to praying every night at 10 p.m. for 10 minutes.
Every night at 10 p.m. YOUR time, pray for 10 minutes.
Here’s the important part–use this time to pray only for OTHERS in your life. You can pray for those who asked for prayers. You can pray for those you know are struggling with something particularly burdensome. But really, you can pray for anyone you wish to pray for!
How can you be successful at this campaign?
*First, set an alert in your phone to ring at 10 p.m. each night to remind you of the prayer time. Do that right now.
*Then, download the free 10@10 lock screen to keep prayer at the forefront for the entirety of the campaign!
*Finally, make a commitment in your heart to ACTUALLY do this. No excuses. At 10 p.m., just 10 minutes of prayer for those in your life and in your community who need the love, support, and encouragement of Christ.
WHY? Why should you join this campaign?
A message from the Campaign’s fearless leader:
Friends, I deeply believe that we are talking too much to each other and not enough to the only One who has the solution to our situations, ointment for our wounds and rest for our weary souls. Moreover, we are not praying enough for each other. Maybe we should spend a little more time praying for others’ burdens and troubles and sit still and watch God heal us and those we are praying for.
That’s the paradoxical beauty of prayer. We pray for others and God restores both the person praying and the person for whom we pray.
In Prince Caspian of the Chronicles of Narnia, the mighty mouse Reepicheep got his tail cut off in a battle and asks Aslan (Christ-figure) to restore his tail. He does not oblige. So out of Love for their fearless leader, the mice in Reepicheep’s company stand before Aslan, swords in hand, and proclaim to all that they will cut their tails off to prevent their leader from feeling shame.
In witnessing this, Aslan, smiling, looks at Reepicheep and says, “You have conquered me. You have great hearts. Not for the sake of your dignity, Reepicheep, but for the love that is between you and your people… you shall have your tail again.”
Love, dears. Love. Love through prayer. Love hard. Love consistently. Love in spite of weaknesses and shortcomings… if we’re not doing this, then it never was Love to begin with.
Let’s stop talking at each other, step off of our pedestals, soap boxes and social media platforms and get down on our knees and let Him cleanse our lips, mind and heart with His fiery coals of Love… and ask Him to do the same with those for whom we intercede.
Spread the word… and the Word.
Restore Your Body
It may seem strange in an Orthodox context to talk about the body in an accepting way, but truly our bodies are wondrous gifts from God and temples of the Holy Spirit. When I was a child, my mother had a incredibly beautiful and detailed Arabic-English dictionary. In the center were full color, full detail anatomical drawings of our skeleton, our nervous system, our muscular structure… It was brilliant. When I imagine all that my hands can do, when I realize the same Mind that created the universe, that set the Milk Way in the heavens, also gave me opposable thumbs and a rational mind, I am in awe.
Which is why–although I am the furthest thing from a health nut (seconds on dessert, please)–I feel a little sad when in the fast we resort to deep fried carbs. I remember serving someone a totally vegan, baked dish and having them say, “Why does this taste so good?” My answer was “Everything God made us was good.” (This statement, coming from my mouth, is shocking to my mother who begged me to eat anything besides fries and pizza for about 15 years to no avail.)
That will be coming next week! Keep your eyes peeled!