I think that in the church year, my favourite season is the season of Advent. Growing up in a more evangelical background, Advent was not emphasized much. We talked about Advent, but didn’t really take the time to savour the gifts this season brings. I first discovered Advent at Epworth United Methodist Church in Oklahoma City. This wonderful community of faith introduced me to the Advent journey.
Advent is a time of waiting. Of anticipating. This isn’t a passive waiting, but a waiting that is filled with an active expectancy. Of opening wide one’s heart to the Holy. Advent isn’t simply a precursor to the main Christmas event – it is a grace in its own right. Yet at the same time, Advent IS a prelude to the Christmas miracle. I love Advent because it reminds me to prepare God room. It challenges me during its’ 4 brief weeks to look for God in unexpected places.
Many times I look for Spirit in the typical types of situations that we church folk like to talk about – church events, times with friends, nature, the singing of the carols, Christmas parties and cheer! But the call of Advent is to anticipate and welcome God in the unexpected – in the places where we think God isn’t.
What about God in the Christmas rush, stress, and kafuffle? In the broken relationships of our lives? In the misunderstandings and tears? Where is God in the grave diagnosis from the doctor? How is God present with the businessperson whose primary concern this Christmas is increased sales, not the birth of a babe? Where is God present in the situations in which we typically think God is absent?
Two weekends ago, I was a part of our Word Is OUT!! LGBTQ Retreat at Manning Park. As part of our weekend together, we spent 2 hours in complete silence as a community. And part of that time of silence included sharing a meal together. I had never eaten a meal with others in complete silence. One thing I particularly noticed was how much of a hurry I was in. The silence birthed a mindfulness that revealed how quickly and mindlessly I move through life, whether walking, or washing my hands, or eating a sandwich, or drinking coffee. I am always in a hurry. But why was I in such a rush? As I slowed down, I began to notice textures and sounds and a deep awareness that I had been missing before. The feel of the water on my hands. The movement of my jaw as I chewed my food. The feel of the floor on my feet as I walked. These were gifts that were revealed as I slowed down and listened.
Perhaps this Advent season we might awaken to the presence of God all around us by taking the time to slow down. For in simply slowing down, our hearts open to the reality of God in both those expected AND unexpected circumstances and places. Perhaps as an Advent practice, we start our day in silence and in prayer, thereby nurturing a deep awareness of God as our day unfolds. Advent is the time when I remember to practice the presence of God all around me. To be open to the touch of Holiness in expected AND unexpected places. To receive the oil of grace that heals and softens the rusted gates of my heart as I prepare Him room with an active waiting and a joyful expectancy.
Blessings on your Advent journey!