As Advent approaches, it can be easy to get swept up in the frantic search for presents, the battle to get the food shopping done, the endless list of chores before the family visits…
Yet at the same time, it’s a season when we’re looking to increase our time with God. We want to study the Bible, spend time in prayer, meditate on those well-know prophesies of old and just be still in the midst of the crowds and contemplate the meaning of the season.
Advent is a time of waiting, of anticipation. This season, just as Lent, is a time when we prepare ourselves to embrace the full meaning of Word becoming flesh, arriving as a tiny baby, dying as a Saviour. Advent draws our eye back to the promises of God and gives us time and space to consider the riches of God’s plans for his people.
Maybe, then, we need to give ourselves a break and seek God in the simplicity of everyday life. Maybe it’s quality, not quantity, God wants…
Grab the moments of stillness or quiet
Each day, there will be certain moments where you find yourself with a few minutes in which there’s nothing to do. It could be whilst you’re waiting for the kettle to boil. It could be putting the TV on mute during the adverts in a TV show. Perhaps it’s at that moment where the kids/dog/spouse have gone to sleep and you can just pause momentarily. At this time of year, standing in the queue at the shops, or waiting under a shelter while the rain stops can all be very practical (and regular) opportunities to take a breath and remember the presence of God among his people.
- Have one short verse each day. You can quickly re-read it through the day in the quiet minutes.
- Have an email/app on your phone with an Advent reading or prayer timed to your lunch or coffee break
- Use study notes that give you a brief 5-10 min reflection that can be squeezed in before bed/over breakfast/while dinner cooks
- Choose a certain place in your house/office and start a habit of pausing there each time you pass and recalling something to thank God for this Advent
- Recite a simple breath prayer at those quiet moments
Find chances to multi-task
“Liturgy of the Ordinary” by Tish Harrison Warren, suggests lots of everyday activities you could use to reflect on God’s presence:
- Brushing your teeth
- Making beds
- Drinking tea
- Eating a meal
It’s both practical and thought-provoking!
Another simple thing that can be done is to take an ordinary daily task and practice doing it with God. A classic example is a commute – perhaps listen to worship music, an audio Bible or podcast. The “Christmas in Ordinary Time” series here http://contemplativeathome.com/page/5/ is a lovely one.
Walking the dog, going for a run, cleaning or doing the gardening are other things that can be done in God’s company.
Diary some extra time in
Think about taking opportunities to spend longer with God, even if it can only be occasional. Look at your diary for the next few months for a day where there’s less happening –a group you belong to isn’t meeting, your partner/child/ housemate is going to be away, you’ve got an afternoon off work etc. Book in an appointment with God at that time (give him a code name if needed – he won’t mind!). Looking for these times can be a great way of setting aside time to go deeper.
Why not take some time out:
- Take yourself to a coffee shop and have a festive treat whilst reading a book/Advent study (Paula Gooder’s “The Meaning is in the Waiting” and “Walking Backwards to Christmas” by Stephen Cottrell are both fantastic!)
- Go for a walk in the park and chat to God about what’s on your mind as you do
- Book into a retreat centre for an Advent quiet day or prayer meeting
- Visit a church service or event that you wouldn’t normally attend
Find the thing that makes you tick
- Gary Thomas has written a great book – Sacred Pathways – which is widely available
- NCD has produced a survey which can be accessed online: https://3colourworld.org/en/etests
- David Csinos has researched this area – The Church of Scotland has a really helpful summary of his ideas. It’s applied to children but makes an awful lot of sense for adults too
Work out when and where you feel most alive with God – your preferred spiritual style. For some it might be formal worship in church, for others it may be getting outdoors in God’s creation, for others creative arts, quiet contemplation, acts of service, times of prayer/fasting. This Advent, make an effort to find the things that get your heart racing or touch your spirit, and make time to do it. If it’s something you enjoy, it won’t feel like a chore and will help you reflect with passion on this season of promise and anticipation.