Fr Randolph’s Reflections on Advent

Advent, in so many ways, is a strange and countercultural concept. The month between Thanksgiving and Christmas is probably the busiest of the entire year. Our calendars are filled with both enjoyable and challenging events – parties, family, friends, meals, travel, presents, sorrow, depression, memories, reconnecting, year-end deadlines, semester exams, anxiety, high expectations, disappointments, deep emotions, faith commitments, relational responsibilities, practical worries, hope and joy for the future, celebrations of life… the list goes on and on. It’s exhausting.

In our culture, the month before Christmas is fast and active, but the Church calls us to slow down and wait during the season of Advent. What a concept! Waiting may be just as important as acting. Of course, we will always spend a much greater portion of our day doing things, but waiting is also a critical part of our lives – waiting for clarity, waiting for the right moment, waiting for a response, waiting for inspiration, waiting for someone.

The Church is also clear that deep, contemplative prayer requires the ability and commitment to wait, to be still, to let our mind noise float away, to wait on God in silence and openness. In order to listen to God at a deep level, which every human is hard-wired to do, we need to wait on God in silence and openness.

This Advent at Saint James’, we are inviting and encouraging every adult parishioner to spend time exploring the benefits of constructive waiting, waiting on God. Here’s what we suggest:

  1. Get your Advent book at church. It’s free for all households who commit to the process. What Are You Waiting For? is an excellent book of daily Advent meditations written by the Rev. Christine McSpadden and published by Forward Movement.
  2. Set aside 5-10 minutes each day to learn more about healthy ways of waiting, especially waiting on God.
  3. Read the daily meditation and let it sink in.
  4. Sit and wait in silence and openness.
  5. Share your experience with a group of parishioners at the following times:

Sunday, 9:00, Café,Sunday, 9:30, Reception Room

Sunday, 11:45, Reception Room

Tuesday, 10:30, Reception Room

Thursday, 8:00am, Reception Room

You could also gather at anytime during the week with a group that you form.

  1. If you don’t get a free book at church, you can purchase one from Forward Movement.

Spending the month before Christmas learning about waiting may sound strange in our culture, but it is a perfect fit with the story of our faith. Mary waited for Jesus to be born. We wait for Christ to come again. We wait to hear God’s voice. We wait to discern God’s call. It is our waiting on God that keeps us focused on God’s will instead of our own agenda. It is what faithful people do. It is what we all can do, if only we make that choice.

For our entire parish to be learning and talking about waiting makes this not merely an individual endeavor; it becomes a community experience. The more the Advent theme of waiting is shared among us all, the more it becomes a communal norm. When waiting on God is a standard practice and step in all our decisions and discernments, who knows what God might give birth to at Saint James’!