I AM one of those people who find it difficult to throw things away. Sometimes with my hand suspended in the air ready to dunk a piece of junk-mail, I will hear a voice saying, “This might come in useful sometime”. And nine out of 10 times, whatever I was about to throw would end up on a pile on my desk.

But “sometime” never comes! So day by day, week by week, the brochures would pile up on my desk until they literally start to spill over the edge. Every year during Advent (which happily coincides with the year end), I harden my resolve and will throw out anything that I have not touched in the last 12 months. This major exercise sometimes takes a week. With some things, the decision is easy.

With others, it is more difficult; these are things I’ve developed an attachment to. Throw … don’t throw … throw … don’t throw … the refrain goes on in my head. At the end of the exercise, I would have gotten rid of 30 percent of the things on my desk. With a leaner workstation, I will notice a couple of things in the coming days. First, there is less physical clutter and I am able to find the things I need more easily. Second, there are less distractions and I will find it easier to get down to writing an article or checking my email or surfing the net.

Advent is the time for us to prepare for Christ’s coming at Christmas. It is the time for spring-cleaning.

But more than physical cleaning, we want to rid ourselves of the spiritual grime that has accumulated in us over the months. Here are some thoughts to help us do that:

• Have we said anything deliberate to hurt others or put stress on our relationships? • Have we done anything to put others down in order to promote ourselves?

• Have we withheld anything from others? It could be alms for a needy person, credit where credit was due or anything that we owed to others.

• Have we been too easy on ourselves, sparing ourselves the harsh yardstick we use to judge others?

• Or maybe our problem is that we are too hard on ourselves. Have we been too harsh and uncompromising in our self-criticism?

• Have we withheld our talents and resources from the Church? Have we been more inclined to take than to give?

Spiritual preparation is, first and foremost, about making peace with others and with ourselves. This might require some initiative on our part to repair a relationship, to repay a debt or restore something which we upset or damaged.

Once we are right by others and by ourselves, we are ready to be right by God. Once the spring-cleaning of our spiritual life is done, we would have shed the excess weight and will now be able to be more efficient and productive in our Christian walk. And we will be fertile ground for the seed of Jesus Christ to be planted in us at Christmas.

By Vincent Especkerman
The writer is a parishioner of the Church of the Risen Christ, Singapore

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