A few days ago, around sunset, November’s warm Indian summer departed quietly. The temperature outside dropped quickly, and by early evening, the first deep silence of early winter rose up from the earth. Even the ocean was quiet, and the waves stilled. Such silence, for me, at least, is the herald of Advent, our season of quiet waiting for Jesus’ birth. Other messengers announce Advent, too. Orion rises in the night sky, starry warrior of northern darkness. Small winter birds return to edges of fields and woods. On my walks, I hear their soft chatter in cedars and yew bushes. And yet, I’m still surprised by blossoms every now and then, for we haven’t yet had a hard frost. Occasional roses still bloom, their lovely color even brighter for the bare trees around them.
Outwardly, during the weeks before Christmas, many of us experience busier schedules, but even in our external busyness, our souls may be waiting for some new birth. Mary knew that she was expecting a child, an astonishing child, and she prepared accordingly, pondering God’s word in her heart. We, too, are invited into that kind of preparation for Christmas. In Christian teachings on Advent and Christmas, in our own tradition and across the church, spiritual teachers from the earliest times invite us to see Mary’s experience as our own. Each one of us hears and receives God’s word; each one of us nurtures new life in ourselves and in others. Each one of us bears Christ in the world in our words and actions.
In this season of waiting and new birth, perhaps there will be time and space to tend whatever new life God is stirring up within us. Perhaps there is one area of your spiritual life you’d like to see renewed. Advent is a good time to pay attention to that. New life is there, of course, always, because God is always at work in us, preparing our hearts and minds to welcome his Presence even more deeply in our lives. As your pastor, my prayer for you has ever been that your faith would grow and flourish, that God would make himself known to you, that your heart would leap with joy in response, as John leapt up within Elizabeth, when Mary came to visit (Luke 1:39-44). May there be time for you to tend your spirit this season. May your joy in Christ grow and when Christmas arrives, may our hearts open even more widely to receive the wonder of Christ’s bright and gentle Light.
In Christ’s peace,