Advent is once again upon us! The four weeks of preparation are beginning and the season of the church has moved on. In some ways Advent has parallels with the season of Lent: we put on the purple, we leave out the Gloria in the liturgy (until we sing it with the angels at the Midnight service) and we give the next four weeks over to the Holy Spirit to prepare our hearts to receive the Son of God. But whilst Lent prepares us to receive Jesus as resurrected and glorified, at this time of year we await to receive Him humble and needy, born in an ordinary stable.
You would have thought we would have got the hang of it by now. And I guess in some ways we have – we know what to expect, we know what is coming, we’ve heard the sermons and studied the wise words… and yet why is it that with every Advent that comes along I think to myself ‘I’m going to prepare better this year!’
We so need the repetition. We need the cyclical seasons of the church to ‘give it another go’… to approach once again and dive into the sacred depths which is the mystery of the incarnation. Each year, we try to prepare for the event which we know we need, but don’t understand in all its fullness… we wait for the person we love but whom we still don’t see clearly enough….and we move forward once again in hope to glimpse some light in a world which seems even darker than it did last year.
Whilst there is much which is the same, I hope that as we approach Advent we are actually in a different place than last year. I hope that for each of us our faith has grown, changed, matured even just a little because of the prayer and worship and life experiences which we have lived through during the past twelve months. Some of the past year may bring back painful memories or difficult times… but it is often in these that we grow in faith the most.
So we begin Advent once again with renewed hearts. We try to stop long enough to truly accept that all the tinsel and the wrapped gifts, to which we give so much thought and time, will never completely fill our hearts with peace. Whilst enjoying the carols, decorations and food, we realise that they will never bring the inner calm which we seek. As God’s people who are ‘on the way’ we have to seek the deeper quiet of Advent.
For it is only with hearts prepared by this quiet space of prayer that we will be able to tiptoe, when the day comes, into the stable and peer into the manger with humility to see the greatest gift God has ever given us…. to see the most profound mystery that the world has ever known. It is only with such a quietness of spirit that, amidst the ordinary surroundings of this messy, stressful world, we will truly see the face of God in it all.
God bless you all during your Advent journeying and at this Christmas time.
with love, Liz