Dear youth ministry friends,
In this season of Advent, I want you to know that I’m praying for you.
For so many reasons, Advent is not a simple time. The Scriptures of this season speak to us of alertness. Attentiveness. Making preparations for the birth of the Holy One. It’s a beautiful image.
Church leaders know that this Advent-y perspective, while holy and good, is also a tall order. Most of us cannot spend the bulk of December as watchdogs, with laser-eyed focus on the coming of Christ. There are events in the calendar. Pizzas to pick up. Games and worship services—sometimes in equal measure!—to plan. And all of this is over and against the personal rituals we engage with at Christmastime with our loved ones.
To be sure, this is a busy, full season. And it can become difficult to find our inner contemplative spirit while doing, doing, doing.
When I was receiving my certificate in Spiritual Direction, I faced this quandary. My first child had been born a few months prior, and I recall lamenting to my teacher that I thought I should quit the program. “Just until there’s a better time for me. I look at my son, and I just can’t leave him for our intensives. And while at home, I can’t find the space to do the exercises.”
My teacher wisely replied, “Jill, I hear you. But there may never be a ‘better time.’ When a little one comes into the world, the world is obligated to make room, to make space. We will do that for you in our group. He is welcome here any time, and we will help you tend to him.”
She went on, “Your learning will be deeper if you stay. You can be contemplative while doing laundry and cleaning your house and waking up for 3am feedings. You can. It’s worth praying over, to see if this is the learning God might wish for you to have instead. If not, perhaps you should go. But if so, you would be well-poised to receive something special.”
I stayed in the program, and found that my teacher had spoken to me of a deeper truth. There is a contemplative voice that reaches out beyond the busy-ness, that can keep us grounded when things feel too scattered and difficult. It is a voice that reminds us that there are other hands that can hold things (even squirmy things that scream for attention!). It is a voice that reminds us that we are not alone, that tasks are seasonal and thus fleeting… and that we are called to search for our rootedness in something that is beyond us.
If you find yourself in just such a season, if your December feels too busy and exhausting to be alert: consider this an invitation from a fellow traveler. Advent is not a simple time. But then again, there is no time better, while in the muck and complexity, to turn to God and remember. May we all remember that there is One who comes to us, born through water and blood and muck, and into a deeply complex time. May we all remember that there is one who looks at you with the gaze of a child, who soaks you in and who wants to be your entire world. May we continue to hold that gaze within us. May it be so.
Blessings to you all, fellow travelers, in this Advent and upcoming Christmas season.
With you on the journey,