Advent begins on December 3, but the season started much earlier for me this year. The reasons: 1) our family is awaiting the arrival of a baby girl just before Christmas; 2) I have been preparing a 4-session program on Advent for my church community; and, 3) I have already watched too many Hallmark Christmas movies!
I am taking the titles of each of the four sessions from four reflections that I posted to this blog two years ago: Wondering in Stillness, Walking in the Light, Waiting with Joy, and Working for Justice. I want to invite you to participate in the Advent retreat/workshop that I will lead at my church in the next four weeks. So this is not so much a reflection as an outline of the retreat.
We will open with “Waiting in Silence” (3:39) by Carey Landry, 2002. (You can find a performance by googling the title and composer.)
Waiting in silence, waiting in hope;
we are your people, we long for you, Lord.
God ever with us, Emmanuel,
Come, Lord Jesus, Maranatha!
The Season of Advent
I invite you to reflect on these questions before you read what others have to say about Advent.
- What does Advent mean to you?
- What are some of the major themes of Advent?
- Who are the major figures in the Scriptures of Advent?
- What are the symbols and colors associated with Advent?
- What special Advent practices does the Church celebrate at this time of year?
“What Is Advent?” (2:23) This is a brief video introducing the season of Advent. (You can find it by googling the title and choosing the 2-minute video.)
Readings for the First Sunday of Advent
We will listen to the readings of the First Sunday of Advent, taken from Isaiah 63:16b-17, 19b; 64:2-7; Psalm 80; 1 Corinthians 1:3-9; Mark 13:33-37.
Why do you make us wander, Lord, from your ways,
And harden our hearts so that we do not fear you? (Isaiah 63:17)
Stir up your power and come to save us! (Psalm 80:3)
God is faithful, and by him you were called to fellowship with his son, Jesus Christ our Lord. (1 Corinthians 1:9)
Be watchful! Be alert! You do not know when the time will come. (Mark 13:33)
As we share our reflections on the readings, we will also consider the reflections of other spiritual writers. We have chosen Waiting in Joyful Hope 2017-2018: Daily Reflections for Advent and Christmas by Mary DeTurris Poust (Liturgical Press, 2017) as our main source of reflections. The one for December 3 is called “Keeping God at Arm’s Length.” In addition, you may want to read Exploring the Sunday Readings by Alice Camille, if you have access to that series.
Today, as we begin our Advent journey, we have a chance to start over, to reflect on the ways we have pushed God away. “Be watchful! Be alert!” the Gospel of Mark reminds us, making clear that we need to get our spiritual house in order. Now is the time. This is our season. God has not abandoned us in the desert or left us to wander without a guide. He waits, patiently, for us to choose him willingly, for us to recognize that when we find ourselves lost and faltering it is because we have abandoned God, not the other way around. On this first day of Advent, we have a choice, as we do every day, every moment. Do we plan to go it alone, or will we anchor ourselves to the One who will never leave us? (Excerpt from DeTurris Poust for December 3, 2017)
- An Advent Wreath
Look for “Advent, The Meaning of the Advent Wreath” (3:19) on the Internet. We will light the first candle of our Advent wreath.
- An Advent Calendar
You can find examples of Advent calendars for children and adults from a variety of sources.
- Wonder in Stillness Practices
Choose a word related to Advent and write an Advent practice that begins with each letter of the word you have chosen. Here are examples for WONDER and STILLNESS:
Write a note to someone I haven’t talked to in a long time.
Offer money to those who ask, even if it’s while I’m stopped in traffic.
Notice – take note of – the people I meet today in the grocery story or shopping mall.
Do not quench the Spirit.
Empathize with others who are weary without allowing their weariness to drag me down.
Reflect on whether or not I am who I say I am and who I think I am – inside and out.
Stay calm and centered about holiday stressors, e.g., tree trimming, shopping.
Take the time to ponder and pray and look for a positive solution to one worry.
Invest less time on presents and more time being a gentle presence to another.
Light a candle on the Advent wreath to remind myself to walk in the light.
Listen to Jaime Cortez’ album, Adviento.
No matter what the day brings, be a peacemaker.
Engage in conversation today someone with whom I rarely talk.
Share groceries with the local food bank.
Smile when I don’t feel like it – at least once today.
Other words you might choose include JOY, PEACE, LIGHT, or WAITING.
The Week Ahead
Consider keeping an Advent journal. Write down what you see, feel, and think with renewed attention to the gift of life.
Reflection: Advent is a season for fresh starts and second chances. At the end of an eventful year, how am I most in need of a new beginning?
Reflection: What if God’s coming is like that of someone deeply loved, for whom it is sheer joy to bake, clean, shop, and decorate?
Catholic Cuisine, www.catholiccuisine.blogspot.com, is a great website to find recipes to celebrate special feast days with your family. The recipes are listed according to the dates in December. The week ahead includes these special days:
December 6 – St. Nicholas
December 7 – St. Ambrose
December 8 – The Immaculate Conception
We will close the session with An Advent Prayer by Jane Deren, Education for Justice. https://educationforjustice.org
Christ, we await your coming, and we respond to your invitation to journey to the holy mountain, where there is “no harm or ruin,” and where the lion can lie down with the lamb.
Help us to be like John the Baptist so we may recognize and announce your love to a world in darkness.
Spark our creativity so we may create the way to your peace and justice, working with our sisters and brothers to open new vistas, to promote new ways of being in community and in communion.
May the wings of the Holy Spirit open softly within us, gracing us with inspiration so our waiting itself becomes the place of a new creation. Amen.