A Coming into Being
By Beth Richardson
The Christmas season — the high point of the year for many people around the world. The preparation for Christmas, the decorating, the celebrations, the music and worship observances, the giving of gifts and gathering of families — all these rituals mark this important event in the life of our faith.
Often during this time of year, I find myself saying, “It doesn’t feel like it’s time to get ready for Christmas.” My insides are not ready for this. The demands of the culture and of my own expectations overwhelm me at a time when I want to be more and more focused on God and the sacred events of Christmas.
That’s why I really like Advent, the season of the church year that includes the four Sundays before Christmas during which we Christians prepare our hearts, minds and spirits for the Advent of the Christ Child.
Webster’s Dictionary defines advent as “a coming into being” (Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate¨ Dictionary, Tenth Edition).
I need this time of Advent to bring me into being. I need to slow down, to live in the moment, to appreciate the small things — the warmth and light of a candle flame, the tiny fingers of a newborn baby, the enthusiastic smiles of children. I need to prepare my heart, to make my spirit ready for the birth of the Messiah.
Advent invites us to slow down, to open our ears to God’s quiet voice in the midst of the chaos of the consumerist culture that Christmas has become. As we make our way through this busy season, let us allow God to shape our minds and hearts — to become a part of God’s “coming into being” in Jesus’ birth.
The thought of adding space for spiritual reflection during the Advent season often seems overwhelming. There are so many tasks that need to be done, so many expectations to meet. How could I possibly add one more thing to my life?
Take time for God: that’s exactly the challenge God gives us during this season of preparation. Advent invites taking time out from our busyness to be with God. We make time for meditation, prayer, scripture study or journaling. We nurture our spiritual self, that sometimes fragile part of us that longs for a connection with God.
Even in our frantic culture, in our busy lives, and during this hectic season of the year, we can learn to spend time with God. Regular people like us can accomplish setting aside a little time each day to prepare our hearts for the coming of the Christ child.
—Adapted from Child of the Light: Walking through Advent and Christmas by the Rev. Beth A. Richardson. Copyright ©2005. Used with permission from Upper Room Books. To learn more about or purchase this book, visit cokesbury.com or upperroom.org.
Keeping Advent at home
Try these ideas for family devotions from the First United Methodist Church, Cumming, Ga., www.cummingfirst.com.
• Gather around the Advent wreath each week of the season and read Scripture lessons (www.gbod.org).
• Decide how your family will participate in a project to help others at Christmas.
• Make an Advent wreath to take to a neighbor who lives alone, or invite the neighbor to join your Advent devotions.
• The prophets said that Messiah has many names ... Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Prince of Peace and Emmanuel (“God is with us”). Talk with your children about these names and what they mean. Tell them about their own names.
• Find a hill where you can look down on the city lights after dark. Talk about how Bethlehem might have looked at night.
• Light the Advent wreath each night at dinner and pray for people you love — and people who need your prayers — by name, thanking God for all they mean to you.
• Decorate a shoebox with the Advent colors – purple or blue. Place Christmas cards inside the box. Each night at dinner, draw out a card and talk about how the person who sent it has brought you joy. Pray for that person.
• Ask everyone in your family to write notes or letters to each other. Tell them how you love them. Wrap the notes in gift boxes to be opened on Christmas day. Place them under the tree.
-- Adapted from Child of the Light: Walking through Advent and Christmas by
Beth A. Richardson. Copyright © 2006 by the author. Used with permission from Upper Room Books. To learn more about or purchase this book, visit bookstore.upperroom.org
or call (800) 972-0433.