Over the past few years there has been a lot of talk about how people greet each other at this time of year. There is Team “Happy Holidays” and Team “Merry Christmas.” Unfortunately, no one seems to be on Team “Advent Blessings.” This is partly because it just doesn’t have a catchy (or commercial) ring to it. But I think it’s largely because most people do not get Advent.
Advent is our time to get ready, to prepare for the coming of the Christ child. It’s a time to slow down, be still, and quiet our hearts and minds. It’s a time to read, pray, and think about the state of God’s creation. As we do, we begin to see how creation is struggling and is in desperate need of salvation from war, violence, famine, poverty, and racism; from grief, loneliness, fear, and depression. We see this pain and we better understand the significance of the birth of Jesus: God coming in human form to live among us, love us, and save us.
No wonder there isn’t more attention focused on Advent. Christmas shopping and going to holiday parties is way more fun than sitting still and pondering the reality of our lives and our world.
But it’s the only way we can experience the true, profound, deep joy of Christmas.
This week’s Advent Litany that I wrote for The Upper Room helps us to be still and recognize our need for salvation. As I wrote before, the Litany can be done with candles or prayer beads or anything else that helps you to quiet your mind and focus.
As you do, know that God is with you in the stillness, leading you to the celebration of the Messiah’s birth and the time when you will really be able to offer tidings of “Merry Christmas” with all the joy and love you can muster.
(the following is an excerpt from the November/December 2014 edition of The Upper Room, reprinted with permission)
Advent Worship Litanies 2014
During Advent we are invited to open ourselves to God’s loving Spirit. One of the best ways to do this is by being still. While our world maintains a hectic pace at this time of year, we have an opportunity to quiet our bodies, minds, and spirits, helping us to prepare for God’s glorious gift of love on Christmas day.
Note: There are many ways to be still, including the use of prayer beads. If you have a set of prayer beads, I encourage you to use them with this Advent Litany. The words to Say can be used with the cruciform beads, while you can use your week beads to Consider how the litany applies to your life. (Alternative directions: Use each bead to consider how the litany applies to your life.)
SECOND SUNDAY OF ADVENT
Light two purple candles.
Read: Psalm 51:1-10, James 5:13-18
Reflect: One reason we find it difficult to be still is that we fear the silence. In the quiet we hear our pain and sin, and that of the world. It is important to take time in Advent to recognize this pain. That is how we understand how sin has devastated our world and how much we need a Savior.
Say: In this season of Advent we will be still and see the pain of the world and confess our need for salvation.
Consider: What pain and sin do you need to share with God? What suffering in the world do you want to lift up to God?
Pray: Merciful God, we confess that we live in darkness, surrounded by sin and death. Hear our cries, O Lord, and save us. Amen.