Five Advent Lessons

IMG_3750This Sunday, the First Sunday in Advent, will mark a new liturgical year. We tend to gloss over that in our culture, focused as we are on the big event: Christmas Day. However, Advent is one of the places where one can feel God at work in the world. Here are five ways to make space for God during Advent.

First, Advent is about preparing yourself to receive God’s gift of His only begotten son. Just as when families expect to welcome a new child, it is important to prepare a place not only in our hearts but in our homes for the Christ child. At our house we spent Thanksgiving weekend reorganizing our living spaces—making them more welcoming and hospitable. On a personal level I’m in a stocktaking mood. What are the things that God has asked of me this year and what is done and left undone?

Second, savor the stillness of Advent. Find pools of tranquility in your day. During Advent, I try to maintain a daily prayer practice so that I can be open to God’s dreams for me.

Third, seek out beauty. Savor literature and art. I will carve out a few days of personal time off during Advent to visit some of the extraordinary exhibits currently on display in New York City. I will also be intentional about reading works of literary fiction. God often speaks to me through art. What is God trying to say?

Fourth, think about what is about to happen and the miracle it represents. There are glorious Advent carols that herald Jesus’ coming. Charles Wesley’s great hymn, “Come, thou long expected Jesus, born to set thy people free…” and Charles Coffin’s “On Jordan’s bank the Baptist’s cry announces that the Lord is nigh…” are personal favorites. God speaks to us through music. What are these hymns telling us?

Fifth, make every day in Advent count. Christmas Eve is also the Fourth Sunday in Advent. That means that instead of four weeks of Advent there are only three—the shortest possible length for Advent. That’s not a lot of time.

In closing, let me share this prayer, which sums up Advent’s challenge and its gift:

O blessed Lord Jesus, our choicest gift, our dearest guest; Give us thankful hearts for Thee to-day. Let not our souls be busy inns that have no room for Thee and Thine, but quiet homes of prayer and praise, where Thou mayst find fit company, where the needful cares of life are wisely ordered and put away, and wide sweet spaces kept for Thee, where holy thoughts pass up and down, and fervent longings watch and wait Thy coming. So when Thou comest again, O Blessed One, mayst Thou find all things ready, and Thy servants waiting for no new master, but for one long loved and known. Even so, come, Lord Jesus. Amen.

May your Advent be full of peace, joy, and anticipation.

Prayer borrowed from In His Presence: Personal Religion in Poetry and Prayer, The Fort Hill Press, Boston, 1922, p. 138.

Photo courtesy of Evangeline Warren.

Published by Rob Radtke

President & CEO, Episcopal Relief & Development, husband, father, friend, traveler, reader, New Yorker.

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