Walking Our Faith: Rescuing our advent if it’s gotten away from you (column)
December 15, 2017
The flood of Cyber Christmas sales has slowed to a trickle, which signals that we are quickly closing in on the point of online shopping no-return, or should I say, too late to arrive by Christmas. The good news is that it means that we are all going to feel as if we have more time on our hands, and perhaps we'll now be able to focus less on shopping and more on the real reason for the season.
It feels that the next two weeks will move in slow motion. Our shopping is done, the decorations are up, kids will soon be out for Christmas break. With this sudden quiet, we might look around and wonder, guiltily, where our Advent plans have gone. We were so well intentioned at the end of November, before Black Friday, of course. We were going to get up 30 minutes earlier each morning to spend time with God. We were going to say a Rosary as a family each night after dinner. We were only going to watch Christmas movies that reflected our ardent Christian beliefs.
Yet, here we are, nearly half the month of December has slipped by in a blaze of shopping, bake sales, school concerts and last-minute Christmas cards that have to be added to our carefully prepared list. And those Advent plans? They were buried somewhere along with our promise to only eat holiday cookies on the weekend. All of which leaves us feeling guilty and as if we've failed. And with that, we give up. We give up the cookie restraint, but worse, we give up our Advent plans to begin a closer relationship with God, as if it were an all-or-nothing proposition.
But here's what God says in John 3:17, one of my favorite verses: "For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him."
God understands that we're not perfect. If we were, there would have been no need to send Jesus, his Son, into the world to live with us, to love us and to ultimately die for us. God is not interested in our artificial rules; he's interested in authentic relationship with us. Honest, full of mistakes and starting over one hundred times, but truly focused on seeking God. That's what he loves about us. Our imperfect, honest authenticity.
So, as Saint Paul recommended, let's forget about yesterday and our overzealous, unrealistic plans to be something we're not. God is not impressed with our plans, he's impressed with our actions.
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Let's do this, instead —when we wake in the morning, sitting on the edge of our bed to get our bleary-eyed bearings, let's welcome God to join us throughout the day. "God, I give this day to you. Come with me and help me to do my best. In Jesus' name, Amen."
At the end of the day, when you once again sit on the edge of the bed and prepare to crawl under the covers, pause for a moment and say, "Thank you, God, for being with me today. Give me a good night's sleep. I love you with all my heart."
Those two little sentences might not seem like much to start. But I assure you, they will please God so very much.
After you've done this for a week, you'll find yourself craving more of God. Here's what I do: I keep my Bible on my nightstand, most nights l will read a few verses from a Psalm as I sit on my bed and before I say my goodnight prayer to God. Recently, I started a subscription to Magnificat magazine. It's small and the morning and evening prayers have become the next step in my morning and evening bedside devotions. After a few weeks, I've found myself looking forward to starting and ending each day with this little book.
I asked my Facebook friends where they found bite-sized daily spiritual nourishment and here were their suggestions: Charlie Brumbaugh, pastor of Saint John's Episcopal Church said: "Forward Day by Day" from the Forward Movement. Claire McNulty, pastor of Father Dyer's United Methodist Church suggested: Sojourners found at Sojo.net. A number of my friends mentioned their love of the Jesus Calling series by Sarah Young.
Soon after, I believe more church attendance, community service and personal spiritual growth will seem less like obligations and more like spiritual food as our love for God grows from our heart.
God, through Jesus Christ, seeks an intimate, authentic relationship with us that exists every day of the year, for the rest of our lives. Not one that comes and goes with the seasons of Advent and Lent. We will never be perfect, God knows that. Forget about your perfect Advent plans. Begin today to seek a real relationship with God.
Suzanne Anderson is the author of "Love in a Time of War" and other books. You can reach her at Suzanne@suzanneelizabeths.com or facebook.com/suzanneelizabeths
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