From Pastor Sarah - While We Wait
Advent has always been my favorite church season. It’s one where I intentionally slow down and try to live life a bit more calmly and patiently. I savor the darkness, the candles, the hymns in minor keys, the bible passages of hope and expectation. My internal rhythms match the rhythms of nature. Dead leaves and cold weather make it seem like growth has halted, but in ways that we can’t easily perceive, nature’s hibernation makes way for new life ahead.
This Advent will be particularly special as I will experience it as one who, for the first time in her life, is preparing for a child. (My husband and I are expecting, due in May). While we’re thrilled, we also know we have a limited amount of time until our lives change forever. We have five months left to go to the movies without planning ahead, to sleep through the night, to get house projects done. I’m trying to take advantage of all the time I have left and it's already making me a bit frantic. The to-do list is long and growing longer. I already know it will not all get done.
And so it is with the days leading up to Christmas. We make our preparations and yes, they are important, but the to-dos will never be totally checked off by the time December 24th rolls around.
I received good advice about getting ready for a child: In addition to outward preparations, I need to prepare my spirit for this change that’s coming. It might not seem as important as painting the nursery or creating the perfect birth plan, but it’s actually more so.
That’s my advice to you too, this season of Advent. Take time to prepare your spirit. It’s so easy to be caught up in the outward preparations for Christmas - the cookie baking and tree decorating and shopping and party-going – that there’s little energy left for anything else. New life, however, requires times of spiritual inwardness and rest. Christmas isn’t just another deadline looming, it’s the birth of a new relationship. You’ll be able to find more of the peace and joy that relationship brings if you take time, while you wait, to reflect on your hopes, fears, expectations, grief, and sense of mystery about what God's renewed presence in your life might bring.
I’m going to try to take my cues from Mary. When the angel Gabriel announced that she was pregnant, she didn’t make a to-do list, she prayed for a world of justice and peace. She visited her relative Elizabeth and they waited and wondered together. She pondered things in her heart. She certainly had plenty to do (like go to Bethlehem for the census!). Still, she stayed connected to the Holy Spirit.
How can you make time, this Advent, to spiritually prepare for Christmas? How can you let go of the frenzy and enjoy the simple moments? How can you reduce the amount of time you spend shopping and increase the amount of time you spend in prayer, scripture study, and contemplation, “pondering things in your heart.”
In Advent at Peace, sermons, adult studies, vespers, and family programs will all focus on being connected to God’s spirit “While We Wait.” I hope these will help you be like Mary this Advent, aware of the Holy Spirit and full of God’s blessed presence.
Note: the stained glass window is from the Church of the Annunciation in Nazareth which I visited last summer. I found the image on www.womenintheology.org.
Be at Peace,