Tuesday, December 24, 2013

My Soul in Stillness Waits

The hours of Advent are drawing to a close here in the Eastern time zone. That time of preparation, of anticipation, waiting upon the Lord is slowly fading. Soon enough we will be filling the pews and then our bellies, taking in the excitement of little eyes as they rip open those gifts that have found their way under the tree. 

I pray that Advent has been a fruitful season for all of us in our journey with and to Christ. I hope that we have taken this time to truly rest and await in awe. Below is a small excerpt from a reflection I was privileged to give for an Advent by Candlelight. As we approach the beautiful mystery of Christ's incarnation, I find that these words still bring me pause - they still my heart as I am tempted to be caught up in our to-dos. They set my sight upon our Lord, and I hope they will do the same for you as we await His coming. After all, in many ways, our whole lives are lived in a season of Advent.

When we look at the world around us, there is a frantic pace as we approach Christmas. Hurriedness, busyness, greediness, despair, loneliness, family drama, old wounds coming to the surface, new ones being created, struggling finances and relationships, and numerous other worries preoccupy many of our minds. While it is difficult to avoid entirely the influence of the world without shutting ourselves away, Advent offers us an invitation to refocus our lives on the One without whom life makes no sense, on the only One who brings peace.

Advent is a season of silence and stillness, as gently and quietly as the snow falls in the night, we wait with hushed wonder for our Savior. It is a season of amazement, if only we look for it, if only we prepare our eyes to see and ears to hear. The miracle of a small child born to an unwed mother in less than comfortable accommodations – that is the beginning of our Savior’s life. It is not what we would expect of a mighty King, of the King of Kings, and that is the way of God. As Mary so humbly proclaimed,

“He has cast down the mighty from their thrones, and has lifted up the lowly. He has filled the hungry with good things, and the rich he has sent away empty.”

Likewise, St. Paul writes in his first letter to the Corinthians,

For God’s foolishness is wiser than human wisdom, and God’s weakness is stronger than human strength. Consider your own call, brothers and sisters: not many of you were wise by human standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, things that are not, to reduce to nothing things that are, so that no one might boast in the presence of God. 1 Corinthians 1:25-29

If we don’t take the time to rest in the Word of God, to soak ourselves in our Savior, we miss the way He moves in our lives. The Holy Spirit prepared the path for His coming then, and He prepares it now. Jesus prepares the way before Himself to enter into our hearts, our lives, if we allow it. The beauty of beginning the Church year now, is that it gives us an opportunity to hit the restart button. It presents us an invitation to be intentional about seeking Christ with new eyes and hearing Him with new ears, of offering Him all our sorrows and fears that He might fill that void with peace and joy, so our hearts can once again be still. So we can honestly say again, my soul in stillness waits.

While Advent is a season of waiting, sometimes, it seems as though our whole lives are a waiting game. From the time we are small children, we are waiting for something. Waiting to start school, waiting to grow up, be old enough, waiting for that first love, first kiss, graduation, college, marriage, children, first vows…always waiting and anticipating what is next. What comes can be so captivating it mesmerizes us into thinking that is the moment in which our lives will be complete, that is the moment in which our lives will have meaning. We can get so caught up in the next big moment that we lose sight of outpouring of grace in the current one. 

Advent offers us an invitation to live in the tension of waiting and preparing. When we wait upon someone we love, we are filled with joy. Some of us, no names here, scurry about cleaning and preparing a place for them to visit or come home to that is comfortable and demonstrates our love for them. We wait, for certain we wait, but we are not passive. Mother Mary Francis is quoted in her Advent reflections as saying, “The most profound passivity before God is that most teeming with activity. We agree to wait upon the Lord, and we agree to do something in this period of waiting. We are watching for every occasion of His coming.” 

The stillness of the season offers us a chance to attune our eyes and ears to notice the multitude of ways Christ comes to us each day, to notice more deeply how much He lives in those around us, and in us. It offers a chance to let go of those things that have taken up space in our hearts and lives that create a roadblock to His coming. 

“Make straight in the desert a highway for our God. Every valley shall be lifted up, and every mountain and hill be made low; the uneven ground shall become level, and the rough places a plain. Then the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all people shall see it together.” Isaiah 40:3-5

The silence offers us a chance to remove the distractions that keep us from preparing our hearts and souls for the coming of Christ. I know when I am surrounded by noise and movement, it is difficult for me to complete the smallest of tasks. It becomes tempting to dive into whatever the distraction of the moment is, whether it is a toddler wanting to play or throwing a tantrum, Facebook calling my name, or a friend who wants to talk or go out. What I need to be doing is cleaning, but any distraction ends up taking over. The invitation of Advent is to silence those distractions first, so we can make that highway for God to reach us more quickly. Now is the time, not later, not on Christmas Eve once the presents have been wrapped and the dinner planned. Now is the hour. 

Prepare your hearts by offering little sacrifices for others. Prepare your hearts by choosing the way of virtue even when it takes all the energy you have to do so. This is how Christ becomes born anew in us. It is so important we continue to try even with the road seems uphill all the way. 

It is critical that we train ourselves because these preparations are not only for our own hearts. Not only are we preparing ourselves to receive Him now and at the second coming, but we are preparing with His help to proclaim Him from the rooftops. You could say we are on the Jesus "CrossFit: program. We are strengthening our Spirits and gathering steam to proclaim, as the angels did on the night of His birth, Glory to God in the Highest! Jesus Christ is Lord and Savior! In Him is our hope. In Him is our life. In Him is our salvation and that of the whole world.

May you and your families be showered with the peace, joy, hope and abundant blessings of Christ in this sacred season.

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