November heralds in the season of Advent, which begins at the end of November and continues until Christmas Eve. However, in the Celtic Christian tradition, Advent starts in the middle of November (the evening of 15th to be precise!) and like Lent, lasts for 40 day (including Sundays, unlike the 40 days of lent).
It is a time of preparation as we wait in anticipation for the King to come. It is time, not only to prepare and look forward to the birth of Jesus, but also a time of anticipation, as we acknowledge that the day will come when Jesus once again returns to earth.
In Isaiah 40:3-5, in The Message translation we read: “Prepare for God’s arrival! Make the road straight and smooth, a highway fit for our God. Fill in the valleys, level off the hills, Smooth out the ruts, clear out the rocks. Then God’s bright glory will shine and everyone will see it.”
During Advent we, “seek to prepare the way for the Lord to come right to the centre of our lives. Every valley and pothole should be filled in, every mountain and hill level and every obstacle removed. The mountains are the wrong things we do, and the pot-holes are the good things we fail to do.” Northumbria Community.
So in the midst of the hurry and haste of everyday life and as you begin to make preparations to celebrate Christmas with family and friends, what can you do to mark the season of Advent? And how can your spiritual practice help you, to prepare to enter into the wonder and joy of the birth of Jesus?
I suggest that you begin by reflecting on how you have journeyed through this season in the past.
- What have you enjoyed, and appreciated about Advent?
- How have you used this time devotionally, to prepare for Christmas?
- What have you found difficult?
- How have you encountered God during this season?
- How has he broken into your busyness and routines, during Advent, to show you fresh signs of his love and forgiveness?
You may like to make a note of your responses in your journal.
In the light of your responses about previous seasons of Advent how would you like to mark the season this year and what strategies/activities can you put in place to achieve these?
There are many resources available for this season and I would like to highlight a few that I have found to be helpful and encouraging.
- Each year Brian Draper writes an annual Advent e-mail series. He writes it day by day and this year the theme is a ‘Thrill of Hope’, “which will help you to make the most of this wonderful season, even within such a different and difficult time as this.”
- Currently Mike Davies from the The Urban Abbey in Nottingham, is doing a short daily reflection on YouTube to mark Celtic Advent.
- The Jesse Tree by Thom M Shuman is a collection of Daily Readings for Advent. It looks at less well known characters in the Bible, through prose and poems.
- In Pause for Advent, Trevor Hudson takes one biblical word of wonder a day as his theme and invites you to pause for a few minutes.
Advent marks the start of the church year and presents an opportunity to embark on a new daily devotional. Sea Salt: Spiritual Reflections for a Contemplative Journey is designed to help busy people experience stillness and deepen their faith, in the midst of the hurry & haste of everyday life. It provides 5 weekday reflections via email and an audio meditation for the weekend. You can take the free trial and experience the first week for free!
Take some time to be still and lay out your proposed Advent activities/actions/strategies/ideas, before God and listen for his perspective on them. Then gather the resources you require and be ready to start, when Advent commences!