In our own lives, Advent can be a special time of learning to wait, slowing down, and preparing for the birth of Christ.
Time Does Not Negotiate...
Margaret Wheatley, a scientist and management consultant who studies organizational behavior, writes in an article, “Servant Leadership and Community Leadership in the 21st Century,” that one of the crises of our age is the belief that we can ignore or negotiate with time. This mis-guided belief, she says causes us to forget about the natural rhythms and cycles of life. “Instead we believe that it’s a straight trajectory into the future, and we can go as fast as we please. This can move us away from nature, from rhythm, from others, from God and even from a sense of place.”
Wheatley adds that as people in the Christian tradition, and especially for those of us in liturgical churches it is time to say ENOUGH! We must take time to think. We must take time to reflect. We must take time to slow down and enjoy the cycles of nature and our own lives. Advent is a season for helping us do just this.
How the Church Tells Time
The Church tells time differently from the culture. The Church’s year is more like a circle than a straight line. As the Rev. Jerome Berryman explains in his book Young Children and Worship, the Church “tells time by celebrating the events of Jesus’ birth, life, death, resurrection, and his ascension and the gift of the Holy Spirit.” These are divided into two cycles. A key word here is cycle—it denotes a circular movement, not a linear one. The two cycles—Christmas and Easter—are divided further into our six Church seasons: Advent, Christmas, Epiphany, Lent, Easter, and Pentecost.
We begin the season of Advent on November 30th this year. The first Sunday of Advent is also the first Sunday of a new church year. It marks the end of the old church year and the beginning of the new. The last day of Advent is always December 24th. The word advent comes from a Latin word meaning “coming” or “arrival.” In Advent we are waiting for the coming of the birth of Christ. In our own lives, Advent can be a special time of learning to wait, slowing down, and preparing for the birth of Christ.
Preparing for Advent
How are you at waiting? Our culture is not a particularly adept teacher at this. It seems to teach us to hurry, be impatient, and want instant gratification. Some of the traditions of Advent such as the Advent calendar and Advent wreath are about the opposite – about slowing down and learning to wait. How might you use them this Advent? As we await the birth of Christ what might be waiting to be born in your life?
Advent is a gift of time if we will only grasp it. It is a time to move more slowly, spend more time with family, friends, and God. Where is Christ trying to break into your life but you might be too busy and anxious to notice?
Online Resources for Observing Advent
this is a year-round devotional site which includes, music, reflection, and scripture delivered to your email inbox. "Following the star" is their Advent series. You can click here to get a daily email reminder during Advent.
Don't let the slightly outdated web design fool you! This Roman Catholic calendar page provides formational reflections and information, including art, music, and videos, for every day from the first day of Advent through Epiphany.
God Pause are daily email devotionals based on the readings from the following Sunday, from Luther Seminary.
Pray As You Go
From Jesuit Media Initiatives, offers a framework for daily prayer, designed to be downloaded to your MP3 player. Each podcast is 10-13 minutes long and includes music, prayer, scripture, and questions to help you think about your relationship with God. Bonus: all of the music is linked so that you can find out more about the musician(s) and purchase the music if you wish.
Carolyn Moomaw Chilton writes and blogs as a spiritual discipline and an invitation to conversation with others. She is currently on staff at Grace and Holy Trinity Episcopal Church in Richmond, Virginia as the Assistant for Evangelism and Stewardship.