by Paula Gooder
As we move through Advent, I have been making an effort to be intentional about how I observe the season this year. My problem is that I preach and believe a message of "slow down, contemplate, listen for the voice of the Spirit, make room in your heart for the birth of Christ," but those words get crowded out in my own life by the busyness of this time at work. There are extra worship services to be planned (and extra bulletins to be written and printed), special activities, and usually some pastoral care situations that are made all the more intense by their juxtaposition with the season of merriment.
Then there are the personal, family activities - decorating the tree and the house, the baking, shopping, wrapping, etc. The issue is, I love all these parts of the season. For four weeks a year, I am a Christmas junkie. I WANT to have time for prayer and writing and reflecting, but so often find that these disciplines get crowded out by the activity. The season of waiting becomes the season of hurry up. I can do my best to do all these things with a calm and unhurried spirit, and that does help. But, that only gets us so far - at some point it becomes too much, and Advent has passed in a blur and we wonder where it went. We might be "ready" for Christmas in that our gifts are wrapped and delivered and the festive food is prepared, but we are not spiritually prepared. I am sure I am not the only one with this problem.
So this year I'm doing things a little differently. I have dropped a couple of major holiday season projects and am trying to focus on mental and spiritual preparation. The Meaning is in the Waiting is helping me with this. Gooder's book looks at waiting as a spiritual discipline, and reminds us why we need to wait for Jesus' birth, contemplating its meaning, before we jump into the celebrations. She looks at the waiting that took place in the lives of Abraham, the Old Testament prophets, John the Baptist, and Mary. The book is strengthened by her extensive knowledge of not just the Bible, but also of biblical history. Gooder ties the threads of this common theme of waiting together in an articulate and meaningful way.
The Meaning Is in the Waiting is a great resource for Advent, and I find it is helping me keep my own "freneticness" at bay. I have already used it in one of my Advent sermons, and have some ideas for ways that some of Gooder's more poetic passages could be woven into a liturgy for our Advent wreath lighting next year. Read this one if you are seeking to deepen your Advent experience this year.
The book's title comes from a poem by R.S. Thomas titled "Kneeling." Google it. You'll be glad you did.