One of the hardest things for us to do – especially in today’s busy and anxious culture – is to wait. Our meals are microwaved to cut the preparation time. Often, they are eaten in front of the TV so we can ‘keep up’ with the 24-hour news. People live in a perpetual state of motion: despite the huge number of ‘labour saving’ inventions in the last century, our lives seem more crammed full of activity than ever. For what…?
Advent is a time of waiting. It reminds us that in the Christian life, it is God’s action not ours that comes first. Before we can do anything useful, we need to watch and wait, to see where his Spirit is at work.
This Sunday’s Gospel reading
This Sunday’s Gospel is Luke 21.25-36. The reading introduces key themes for Advent – of being alert and awake for God in the midst of the turmoils and distractions of the world around us.
Have you ever watched an angler standing by the river? It looks a very restful pastime, but as any angler will tell you, it involves a lot of concentration. You’ve got to be patient… willing to wait hours while little or nothing at all happens. But if you don’t also keep alert, you’ll miss the opportunity to catch anything.
Too often in today’s world we’re either rushing around or we’re slumped on the sofa! Neither of these are states of alertness and watchfulness. That state of mind – peaceful, patient and yet wide awake– is one we have to make a determined effort to cultivate.
For most of us, December is a very busy time, with lots of
preparations for Christmas. Will we make an extra space this Advent to listen to God: a little extra time each day to watch and wait? We might spend it reading the Bible – slowly and reflectively, letting the words sink in, and picturing the situations they describe. We might listen to a piece of music, or sit before an icon or a candle (as sign of Christ’s light). If our extra time of quiet is at the end of the day, we might recall each of the people we have met in the day…their needs and concerns… the way we interacted with them…the things for which we need to say ‘thank you’ and for which we need to say ‘sorry’.
Advent is meant to be a time of preparation for the God who takes flesh and lives among us. So we can expect to meet Christ in the flesh-and-blood encounters of our daily lives. Keeping Advent prayerfully helps us recognise him when he moves among us – here and now.
Pray for all involved in the social action projects of the Church Urban Fund and the community engagement in churches supported by the Contextual Theology Centre – that the demanding work they are doing may draw them closer to the God who became flesh in Jesus. Pray that Advent may be a time when they can attend more deeply to God’s presence among them, and find in him the strength and grace to minister.