A prayer for the season:
O blessed Lord Jesus, give us thankful hearts today for thee, our choicest gift, our dearest guest. Let not our souls be busy inns that have no room for thee and thine, but quiet homes of prayer and praise where Thou mayest 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, mayest 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.
The Advent Adventure
So we begin the season of Advent, a new year in the life of the church, a counter-cultural season that invites us to slow down and be quiet. That’s easier said than done when the list of things to do lengthens and social commitments increase. I remember the reaction of one colleague at a church where I served. When I’d go around saying how we were supposed to slow down and be quiet in this season, she gave me this “Yeah, right” look, major eye-roll, and whipped out a button that read: “Jesus is coming. Look busy.”
At the start of Advent 2018, I was thinking about the relationship between the word “advent” and the word “adventure.” An etymology dictionary indicates that the word “adventure” originally suggested that which happens by chance or fortune or luck. Later, the word came to mean that which is about to happen. It had an element of risk or danger or perilous undertaking, softened by a sense of a novel or exciting incident. An adventure was a remarkable occurrence, maybe even a wonder, a miracle suggesting marvelous things.
Does any of that jibe with your experience? Does it sound like your own spiritual journey, your religious life? What will your version of an Advent adventure look like this year?
Is there an element of expectation about what is coming, as far as your spiritual journey is concerned? Do you have any sense that God might do something new in your life? In the work we do with congregations around spiritual growth (a.k.a., change), I have heard a few Episcopalians say that they don’t expect anything to happen in their spiritual lives, or in their engagement with church. They can’t imagine change in their lives attributable to their faith. They are not against it. They just don’t see it happening. Faith is there as comfort, maybe even ratification of what they’re already doing. But in their minds it’s not about transformation. The Advent adventure invites us to think in a new way, to think that things might change, that we actually might grow.
Is there an element of risk in your spiritual journey? Where does courage come in? Advent is filled with people who take risks. The starring role goes to John the Baptist, who risked speaking truth to power, and lost his head over it, as a party favor no less. He did anything but play it safe. Jesus called him the greatest person ever born. Just think about what both Mary and Joseph risked. What risks do you take for the sake of your faith? A risk for many of us over-programmed types would be to savor silence, to set aside quiet time, maybe just unplug for a bit. Maybe a risk is to take even a small stand for justice and peace, to give to help those in need. The Advent adventure calls us to step out in faith.
Is there any sense of wonder connected with your spiritual journey? What causes you to wonder? If an adventure is indeed a remarkable occurrence, a wonder, a miracle suggesting marvelous things, then Christmas fills that bill. Can we take this time to keep focus on the reason for the season, which is to celebrate the miracle of the word made flesh, God present with us, born into humble surroundings, born into our hearts. Grace has appeared. The Advent adventure calls us to focus on that miracle, mindful of what Albert Einstein said: “There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle.”
Take this holy season to ask: In what way can you describe your spiritual journey as an adventure? And then discover your own version of an Advent adventure.
Rev. Jay Sidebotham
RenewalWorks is a ministry of Forward Movement.