We have entered Advent, the season to prepare spiritually for Christmas. Advent is a time of watchful hope—think of a pregnant woman in the last trimester, waiting for the birth of her child. Every day, as her belly grows, so do does her anticipation of meeting the child growing within.
One of the women at work is pregnant, and her due date is December 27. Watching her excitement grow as her due date approaches helps me get in touch with the spirit of Advent. She is positively bursting with promise.
Advents invites us to join in that kind of joyful anticipation.
So how do I summon that kind of anticipation in my own life? What new life can I anticipate with a sense of urgency? What is growing within me and bursting to be born?
More than anticipation at this particular time, I am feeling anxious. There is the pandemic, which is spreading like wildfire where I live.
And then I am having my kitchen renovated (you will not be the first to ask why I would undergo a major construction project during a pandemic). The work is going fairly smoothly, but the upheaval is a bit distressing (the contents of my kitchen cabinets are stored through the house, and I have limited cooking capacity).
And then there is my ninety-four-year-old mother. Friends joke that she has nine lives; she is indomitable. While she easily denies her limitations (“no diminishment,” is her mantra) I find myself watching closely for signs of decline, and that kind of vigilance makes me anxious.
When I opened my prayer book on Wednesday morning and read Isaiah 25:6-10 and Matthew 15:29-37, these words jumped off the page—in this place; at this time.
It was a reminder that in the midst of whatever is happening in my life and in the life of the world, I am called to pay attention to God’s work, to what God is doing, here and now.
The coronavirus will pass and my kitchen project will be finished—these are passing things. My mother will be my mother—a force who lives on her own terms and will die on her own terms.
More important than what is happening outside is what is happening inside. Like the baby growing in the womb, God invites me to look inside, to see if my heart is aligned with God’s work of wiping away tears; of tending to the lame, blind, deformed and mute; of feeding those who are hungry.
Shifting my focus from the details of everyday life to the expansiveness of God’s view, I asked God, “What am I invited to do in this place, at this time?
When my friend Jim got brain cancer eight years ago, I asked God that very question, and the response was that I was to love unconditionally, to forgive without limit and to let go.
When I live like that, I will be non-judgmental, merciful and free—and ready for Christmas.