Welcome Advent!


By now you’re either in the Advent spirit of welcome and waiting, or you’ve skipped ahead to the Christmas spirit with its hustly-bustly feeling of overwhelm—too much to do and never enough time to do it.

You do have a choice: be present to Advent’s time of waiting and preparation. Or focus entirely on the race to Christmas.

I had a choice this morning whether or not to go to Zumba. Normally I love Zumba, but I was expecting a crowded room and boring routines that no longer challenge me. I really didn’t want to go.

Goodbye, expectations! Welcome, new Zumba teacher!

The room was still crowded, but this perky teacher led us through refreshing new routines. She actually demonstrated some of her steps before the music started. New can be challenging but in a good way because it makes my brain work harder to follow the steps. What I was expecting to be the same-old turned into something challengingly fun.

On the drive home from the gym, I thought of this passage from Isaiah, “Behold, I make all things new.”

Advent is a time to be and do something new. It’s not only a time to bring out your Christmas finery, but also a time to clear out some old ways of relating to God. As the first four weeks of the new liturgical year, Advent offers plenty of time to practice some new resolutions.

If the familiar way you’ve been relating to God—and others—seems like a boring routine, then maybe it’s time to change things up and do something new.

Some suggestions:

  1. Read a spiritual book and reflect on it. One of my favorites, Henri Nouwen, comes to mind. He is easy to read and relatable no matter where you are on your faith journey. Here’s some Nouwen Advent wisdom: “For us and many people, waiting is a dry desert between were we are and where we want to be. We do not enjoy such a place. We want to move out of it and so something worthwhile.”
  2. Begin your day with an Advent prayer practice such as Sacred Advent from Loyola Press delivered each morning to your inbox.
  3. Check the Advent calendar from Busted Halo, reflect on the quote and then strive to do the daily micro-challenge. November 30’s micro-challenge was: “Say something that makes someone smile or laugh today,” based on Stephen Colbert’s Nov. 30th quote, “If Jesus doesn’t have a sense of humor, I am in huge trouble.”
  4. Set aside five minutes (for starters) to sit in silence to hear what God may want to say to you today. This will be hard at first if you don’t normally sit and DO NOTHING, especially during this busy time of year. Set a timer if you need to. Eventually you’ll begin to welcome the silence.
  5. Strive to do at least one intentional act of kindness for someone each day. It can be as simple as a smiling and saying hello to someone you don’t know or calling a store clerk by name or slowing to allow someone to turn out into traffic. Forget about random acts of kindness; do intentional acts!
  6. This last one may be the hardest: Let small annoyances caused by someone else roll off your back. Yeah, someone else may be rude or impatient or selfish. But don’t let what another person does or doesn’t do ruin your inner peace. You could even respond to them with Suggestion #5 rather than REACT to them.

God wants to create something new in us, but new requires letting go of the familiar. Who knows? You may stumble into something new that’s refreshingly wonderful!

If you need help trying to relate to God in new ways, consider spiritual direction in 2017. Happy Advent!