Wednesday, December 13, 2017

The Journey of Advent

Dear Friends,

When I was a teenager, my grandmother took me on a vacation across America. We were going to Chicago to visit family and then to New York to see the 1965 World’s Fair. I wanted to fly. Get in. Take off. Land. Get to where you want to go, to see the things you came to see! But my grandmother, the school teacher, had other ideas – we’d take the train. 

Crawling across the country for three days, I was bored. I was fascinated. It seemed to take forever and it was over too quickly. I still remember the images from the observation car. Towns in New Mexico that looked like western movie sets, the never-ending plains of Texas, then traveling through Websters Grove, Missouri – the birthplace of my grandfather, and the thrill of crossing the Mississippi River while thinking about the adventures of Huckleberry Finn and his friend Jim. I had wanted to get to New York as fast as we could. My grandmother wanted to teach me how to slow down and enjoy the journey. What a wonderful gift of memories she gave me that summer.

It seems that as soon as the Thanksgiving dishes are dried and put away, a bell sounds and the Christmas race is on. Recent surveys show that Christmas is the sixth most stressful life event up there with divorce, death, moving and changing jobs. December is the most stressful month for families. High expectations for the perfect gifts, baking, cooking, decorations, parties and will Aunt Eunice drink too much of the “enhanced” eggnog again? Jingle Bells and jangled nerves. Dashing toward Christmas day in a one horse open sleigh. Then finally, it’s Christmas! It’s show-time!! We did it! And we never notice that in our perfectly hand-crafted, decorated Christmas, the manger is still empty. We’ve left someOne behind.
When we’re flying through December and hurtling toward the destination we call “Christmas,” life around us becomes a blur. Maybe grandma was right and we just need to slow down so that we can enjoy the journey. That’s why we need Advent. Advent means “coming” and these are the days that we anticipate the coming of Christ. Advent is the spiritual speed-bump that slows us down in our race toward December 25th and allows us to savor the Christmas season. When we are tempted to speed up into the Holly Jolly Christmas pace, Advent takes us into a contemplative place. During this happy holiday season, we can meet Santa at Wal-Mart, but Advent reminds us that we will meet the Son of God in the quiet sacred places.

On the Advent journey, we find our peace and joy not in what we buy, plan, decorate or cook, but in the expectancy of His coming. You may want to spend even more time in quiet prayer and contemplation. You may want to turn down the noise of your fast-paced life and spend time in silence with Him – just you and God – alone together. 

During this journey of Advent, read  Luke 1:5-2:20 and Matthew 1:18-24. The ancient practice of lectio divina (sacred reading) is reading a passage of scripture until a word or phrase stands out and repeating it in a slow and reflective manner. Meditate on the word or words by thinking about what they mean to you. What is God saying to you? Pray about this and then just rest in His presence. Sit quietly with Him in a time of contemplation. You may hear Him speak to your heart, you may be filled with His peace or you may find yourself just sitting there with God and enjoying His Presence. Set aside some daily time with Him. Rest with Him.

Resting in His peace will bring a joyful attitude. Then when others are stressed, anxious and angry in the weeks ahead, you be the one who brings the joy of God into their lives. Practice graciousness, patience, and kindness with family members and frazzled store clerks alike. Be especially aware of friends and neighbors who struggle this time of year. Be compassionate. Be considerate. Be Christ-like. Show them the love of Jesus this Christmas and do what you can to relieve their distress, suffering and loneliness. 

Let Advent slow us down from the craziness of Christmas and take us into that contemplative “Maranatha” place as our souls are nourished with the anticipation of His coming. The Aramaic phrase Maranatha is used just once in the New Testament 1 Cor 16:22 and is translated, “O Lord, come!” Let that be our prayer this Advent...

1 comment:

  1. Thank you Pastor John. I am going to share this with friends.