In the parish newsletter that went out last week, I wrote a letter to my congregation encouraging us to consider ways we might prepare through Advent to celebrate a holy Christmas.

Here is the letter essentially as I sent it out to the good Saints of St. Philip:

Friends,

In the church we seem to be constantly swimming against the flow of the prevailing culture. At no time is the tendency of the church to be out of sync with the rest of the world more evident than in the days
leading up to Christmas.

In preparation for December 25, the world encourages us to sink into the unconsciousness of spending, partying, and ceaseless activity. In contrast, the church calls us to use the days prior to Christmas to stop,
simplify our lives, reflect, and wake up.

Advent calls us to pay attention to our lives. In this season the Spirit summons us to identify ways we choose to be unconscious and then to turn from those numbing choices that keep us from being more fully the bearers of that Light that is our true nature.

Jesus summed up the Advent theme when he challenged his followers to:

Open your eyes, for you do not know what time it is…
Therefore, keep awake—for you do not know when the master of the house will come,
in the evening, or at midnight, or at cockcrow, or at dawn,
or else he may find you asleep when he comes suddenly.
And what I say to you I say to all: Keep awake. (Mark 13:32,37)

The Gospel challenges us to refuse to settle for life on the surface. Jesus invites us to penetrate more deeply, to go beyond the wrapping paper, the glitz, and the distractions life provides in such abundance.

There is a Deeper Mystery. In this season we are invited to open to this Deep Mystery, to enter the flow of Love that sustains all of life. God calls us to awaken to that dimension of life that is so easily and so often neglected in the busyness of our lives.

All the presents, parties, and warm family gatherings, are calling us to acknowledge this deep abiding Presence we experience at the heart of life when we refuse to settle for the artificial satisfactions promised on the surface.

Here are a few suggestions of ways you might practice preparing to open to the deep part of your being where Christ is waiting to be born:

  • In the midst of a shopping blitz, stop for a moment; breathe deeply, and draw to mind something or someone you are grateful for.
  • Before eating a meal, stop for a moment; be still and quiet; open your heart.
  • When stuck in traffic, in a shopping line- up, or any situation where you might feel trapped, notice something of beauty and be grateful to the One who has created everything.
  • In a difficult conversation, allow your shoulders and your hands to relax; open your heart to the person with whom you are speaking.
  • Perform a routine activity slowly and deliberately: walk up the stairs more slowly; turn off the engine in your car and before rushing out the door sit for a few seconds; eat attentively; don’t rush to
    respond in a conversation.
  • Watch for any opportunity to create space in your life; rest in that space and recognize the presence of the Deep Mystery at the heart of life.

These are all gifts you can give yourself in this Advent season. They will not max out your VISA card, or increase the stress and tension in your life. They may help you discover a new lightness in your being
and a new freshness in your spirit.

As you enter this season of preparation may you experience God’s call to rest in the Deep Mystery of Love who holds you and offers you the gift of eternal peace.

God Bless you all,

Christopher