Shh, Be Quiet, It’s Advent.

Advent, Silence, Stillness, Solitude, Waiting, Watching, Desert Fathers
Image Source: Wikimedia Commons, Public Domain

A new liturgical year begins this coming Sunday, December 2, 2018, with the First Sunday of Advent. The Season of Advent consists of the four Sundays before Christmas. The liturgical color for Advent is purple or sometimes blue. We will begin a new liturgical cycle of seasons, feasts and fasts, and scripture lessons. This year the gospel will focus on Luke’s account with The Gospel According to John interspersed throughout the year but primarily in the Easter season.

The liturgical cycle is not, however, simply about passing time. The liturgical cycle tells the story of God’s life in the world. But it is more than just reciting the story. We are participants in the story, not simply spectators or listeners. It is a ritual re-living of the life of Christ. Liturgy is the means by which we tell, live, and experience the story. It becomes real. It becomes our story not in the sense that we own it but in the sense that the liturgical cycle tells the story of our lives.

It has been said that liturgy is humanity’s yearning for God and grace is God’s yearning for humanity. Liturgically, this story of holy yearning—God’s and ours—begins in Advent. Advent means coming or to come. Advent is really about two comings. It is waiting and watching for the coming of the Christ child—new life, new birth, new hope coming into our world and our lives. It is the fulfillment of God’s promises. It is also waiting and watching for the coming of the eschaton—the end times when the fullness of God’s kingdom will be present. These are both future events and at the same time a present reality. They are already and not yet. Both of these advents are about the coming together of humanity and divinity.

The four Sundays of Advent are too often seen as the countdown to Christmas, as the time when we get things ready for Christmas. Santa Clause has been out since well before Halloween. Shopping lists are growing and the number of shopping days is shrinking. Menus are being planned. Travel is being arranged. Families are gathering. Expectations and hopes are growing. The countdown is well underway. Trees need decorating and presents need wrapping. Somewhere in all that is the stuff of everyday life – work, school, car pool, sports, paying bills, and running errands. There is so much to do and time is running out. The temptation is to live a “hurry-up, get busy, Christmas is almost here,” Advent. That is not the liturgical understanding of Advent. That kind of Advent can only lead to a “hurry-up, get to church, open the presents, take down the tree, Christmas is over,” Christmas.

The four Sundays of Advent are not the time when we prepare for Christmas but the time in which we are being prepared for Christmas. Advent is a time when the Church stands up in the face of the busyness of life, shopping, parties, cooking, traveling, and decorating and asks us to slow down, be still, and be quiet. We are to keep awake, looking and listening for the God who is always coming to us. We are called to prepare the way of the Lord. We watch and reflect on who we are. We look for the Christ in all the unexpected places – in the stuff of everyday life, in the poor, the hungry, and the needy. We live with expectancy and anticipation of God’s presence in our lives. We wait for the angelic messenger that promises us that the womb of our humanity will bear a child named Jesus.

That is hard work any time but especially in one of the busiest times of the year which may just mean it is even more necessary. Advent reminds us that waiting and watching are holy work. So how do we do this? 

Silence is the key. Silence is a way of waiting, a way of watching, and a way of listening to what is going on within and around us. We come to self-knowledge through stillness and silence, through attentiveness and watchfulness.

The desert mothers and fathers knew well the practice of waiting and watching. Abba Arsenius said he heard a voice say, “Arsenius, flee; be silent, pray always.” And Abba Poeman said, “Be watchful inwardly; and be watchful outwardly.” These practices are not just for the ancient desert dwellers. Living as we do in a culture of excessive distraction, noise, busyness, comfort, and instant gratification the wisdom of the desert should not be ignored.

So I wonder what we would discover if, for the Season of Advent, we took five minutes or maybe ten to just sit in silence and stillness, waiting and watching. What would the Coming One show us and say to us?

14 thoughts on “Shh, Be Quiet, It’s Advent.

  1. WOW! this is what caught me… “liturgy is humanity’s yearning for God and grace is God’s yearning for humanity. Liturgically, this story of holy yearning—God’s and ours—begins…” Thank you!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for reading my blog Diana. I think the yearning is also a call. God’s yearning call us out of ourselves, and our yearning calls God out of God’s self. We meet as the divine-human, the Christ.

      Peace be with you,
      Mike+

      Like

  2. Mike, I am somewhat of a liturgy wonk and I, too, was struck by “…liturgy is humanity’s yearning for God and grace is God’s yearning for humanity…” I so enjoy your postings. Thanks for sharing them.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much Martha. It’s good to hear from you. I am sure I got that phrase from someone else, but cannot remember where or who. I love that God yearns for us.

      Advent blessings and peace to you,
      Mike+

      Like

  3. We are hearing so much about The Story,which is fine, but for me the Story comes alive in living the liturgy, the work of the people.
    Thanks, Mike, and blessings yo you and yours.

    ellen connelly

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Michael, “the time in which we are being prepared for Christmas.” Love it! That was my mother’s mantra during this season. She would tell us that all those people who decorated for Christmas immediately after the Thanksgiving desserts, saw December 25 as the end of the holidays. We see the Nativity as day one. Thanks for sharing! Hope you get a chance to read my Advent 1 post tomorrow.
    Pax,
    jbt

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I enjoyed reading your blog post Michael. We have to make time and room for Jesus during Advent and all 365 days of the year! I invite you and your readers to begin an Advent Challenge with me on thewordsanctuary.blog.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, Jenny, Advent may be a short season in the church year, but it is everyday in our lives. Thank you for the Advent Challenge – good words. It reminds of the psalm, “Be still and know that I am God.”

      Advent blessings to you,
      Mike+

      Liked by 1 person

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