The Invitation of a Busy Advent

                I tend to feel tension in Advent. I desire it to be a time of quiet, of listening, of waiting. I want to sit in the darkness with the single candle flame that expands to two, then three, then four, waiting for full radiance to come in Christ’s birth. Attending to the mysteries of the season has seemed to beckon me to dark, still, womb-like waiting.

                Yet this longing for quiet anticipation plays out within my context, where December is always busy. I squeeze directees into the first three weeks of the month so I can take off time to be with family. I finish out year-end projects. I plan Christmas gifts for immediate and extended family members. I go to as many seasonal celebrations as I can. And inevitably I feel tired, overwhelmed, and pulled in too many directions.

                Often this tension leaves me feeling frustrated, as though I am failing at Advent. I can’t figure out how to get space to “do it right,” and all I can do is write off this year and hope that the next year will be different.

                The next year is never different.

                This year, I’m hearing a different invitation. As I reflected on Mary’s pregnancy, the Holy Spirit nudged me to look more closely at how Mary spent her days. For possibly the first time, I really saw what those final weeks of her pregnancy were like for her: preparing for her journey, packing up anything she might need knowing her child might be born before she returned home, traveling the rough and dusty roads, moving as quickly as her swollen body would allow. It was not a time of stillness and retreat. It was a time of constant activity.

                What might the season hold for me, if I enter it embracing the activity and the movement? What if, instead of resenting it and wishing it away, I saw it as part of preparing for Christ’s coming? Could I keep my internal gaze fixed on what is to come within the busyness, like Mary placing her hand on her belly as she traverses the distance between Galilee and Bethlehem?

                I think this might be the difference between being grounded and being centered. I am not rooted down, resting in place. Instead I am holding a still center within the movement. Maybe this shift will let me release the resentment. Maybe I can let go of how I wish this time would be, and instead encounter the God of Things As They Are.

                May you journey well this Advent. May this season of watching the glimmers of light grow to incandescence contain exactly what your soul most needs. Peace to you in the stillness. Peace to you in the busyness. Peace to you, right where you are.

A Blessing For Holy Week

I confess to you that I am arriving to this Holy Week distracted and frazzled. I had such high hopes for Lent, for what I would give up, for what I would do, for how I would spend time with the Lord. Some of these have worked out, but many of them haven’t.

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Although I am rushing and collapsing into the week, I know I come in time. There is still time, in these next days, to draw close to Christ. I can still quiet my heart and mind and let Jesus be the center. This week we are invited to journey with Jesus, to walk alongside him as he approaches the cross. We are invited to offer him the attention and love and companionship that he offers us every other day of the year.

One of the ways I join Jesus is through a sense of wonder. I wonder what that last week was like for him. He clearly knew what was coming and hoped against it and yet walked forward faithfully. What was it like to be in his body that week? To feel his feet stepping firmly on the earth and count his footsteps? To wash his hands and marvel at the calluses and creases, the marks of a life that was coming to an end? How do you be present to life when you are confronting death?

These are some of the questions I hold, as I join him on the road. I hope for you to find your own questions, your own sources of wonder, your own ways to come alongside him this week. And I so offer you this blessing, to seal your holy journey.

A Blessing for Holy Week

However you arrive here – 
Centered and prepared,
Distracted and rushing,
Robust or fragile - 
It does not matter. 
It simply matters that you are here, 
At this holiest of weeks. 

This week has been waiting for you.
Can you feel the weight of it?
There is a slowness, a solidity to it. 
These days ask you to slow down with them. 
They ask you to let the weight hold you in place, 
That you may be fully present, 
That you may center yourself in Christ. 

The same Jesus who companions you
Is waiting to be companioned. 
Can you join him…
As he enters Jerusalem?
As he washes the feet of his beloved friends?
As he breaks bread and pours the cup?
As he eats one last meal?
As he waits for the betrayal of his disciple?
As he prays in the garden, begging the Lord?
And that is just the beginning of his walk…

May you hear the invitation of this week. 
May you move slow with the weight of it. 
May you arrive at Easter
Centered in Christ.