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  • Writer's pictureDebbie Salter Goodwin

Heart Before Home

I love a decorated house. Getting it there, is another story. No matter how I store, organize or try to schedule; decorating the house for Christmas is messy, chaotic and usually frustrating.

I’ve come to understand that maybe it’s because I start at the wrong place.

Where does the most important part of Christmas begin? Not in the kitchen, Not by the fireplace with a decorated mantel. Not with a tree, even when loaded with memories.

Christmas starts in the heart.

It’s where God started. He loved us so much that He gave us Jesus. Maybe that’s where I need to start, too; in my heart.

For years, now, one of the very first decorations that comes out is our Advent candle wreath that sits on the table where we eat most of our meals. For me, it’s not enough to light the candles in church. I need my personal Advent lighting ritual. It helps me say, I want to be ready for the coming of the Lord. I want my heart to be looking for where he is working and pointing.

I look for other ways to do my heart-work first. A guided Advent Devotional that skips the sentimental and goes for the deep truths of worship, heart-keeping, listening and submission. (I’ve tried to do that in December Prayers. I hope you’re reading with me.)

But inevitably, the season pulls me into more chaos than I want, uncovers unmet needs, pushes me to measure up somewhere. It takes a daily silence for me to hear the whisper of God telling my heart what it needs at Christmas:

That I am loved from the depths of God’s heart in a way I cannot know such deep, healing, completing love anywhere else.

That the coming of Jesus in the middle of everyone’s busyness, shows how easy it is to miss Him.

That a stable reminds me how the glory of God decorated a simple place.


That nothing I do at Christmas will be more lasting than what God wants to do in my heart this Christmas.

So here is the challenge I’m sharing this first week of Advent:

Start with your heart, not with your home.

Identify a set-aside time, even if it’s only five minutes, to stop and listen for God’s whisper to your heart. How does He want you to celebrate His son’s birthday?

Set up your nativity scene slowly, deciding which Christmas participant you are most like.

Use every Christmas connection, whether by party, cards, or unexpected encounter, to encourage, listen, affirm.

Put an end to any got-to-get-it-done activity by asking yourself who’s doing the pushing.

Ask God what He wants you to learn, see, do this Christmas.

I’d love for you to share your ideas for heart-before-home work. Write me. We can pray for each other as we open our hearts more fully to Advent as a way to review Jesus’ first coming that we might edit our lifestyles to make sure we are ready for His second coming.

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