I’m happy lately, feeling as if I’m in the zone, using my gifts, and helping people. And you can’t beat that.
I don’t think it’s a coincidence that I’ve rededicated myself to a regular practice of prayer and meditation over the past few months. Last week, I gave a sermon about “becoming prayer” — prayer not so much as something you do, but as a state of being.
In the interest of practicing what I preach, and having learned that pastoral work is more about being a centered, compassionate human being than it is about book learnin’ and fancy words, I am dedicating myself this Advent to truly reaching for God’s heart, opening myself to that spirit of love that comes only through prayer.
The love that keeps going through the darkness, the love that never folds in on itself even when it hurts to stay open, the love that loves even the unlovely. Especially the unlovely.
The love that breaks down our defenses and cleans out our ego-crap and prepares a place for God in our hearts. Advent love.
In our responsive prayer at church yesterday — the first Sunday in Advent — we used the phrase, “slipping from regular time into Advent.” I love this image of a gentle but certain transition. Advent happens. God happens.
The church of Jesus slips into this ancient-but-new season together, a communal season of the spirit, a season of reflection and celebration. These days everybody talks about their spirituality as if it’s an individual personal growth thing, which it is, but Jesus said that he came to empower us to be One in the spirit of Love, so Christian spirituality is also a community thing. Slipping out of “regular time” and into Advent time is something we do as a spiritual family.
To celebrate the start of Advent, I want to share this lovely but challenging prayer by Howard Thurman, an African-American theologian, educator, and civil rights leader.
“May the sounds of Advent stir a longing in your people, O God. Come again to set us free from the dullness of routine and the poverty of our imaginations. Break the patterns which bind us to small commitments and to the stale answers we have given to questions of no importance. Let the Advent trumpet blow, let the walls of our defenses crumble, and make a place in our lives for the freshness of your love, well-lived in the Spirit, and still given to all who know their need and dare receive it. Amen.”
May love happen for you this Advent!