OK ... time to confess ... I feel like a hypocrite. There ... it's out! Why? Well, it's all about how Advent is feeling this year for me. I've never been one of those folks who has all of their Christmas shopping done by September (unlike my mom who is past master of getting it all done very early - a gift of which I'm sorely bereft) and for the past two years I've completely missed the whole sending out Christmas cards thing (seminary schedules and internships have a way of crowding stuff out). So between the shopping and the Christmas cards (with the requisite note about why we dropped off the face of the earth for 2 years ...) and the planning of special liturgies for each Sunday in Advent and a Bible study on the birth narratives in Matthew and Luke ... we'll it's not exactly been a peaceful and introspective time of preparation. So as I preach about slowing down to take Advent in and concentrate on spiritual preparation, well ... I feel a bit hypocritical over the whole thing.
Perhaps I'm preaching this as much for me as anyone else (isn't that true more often than we'd like to admit?). Sometimes we ordained folks need to verbalize things for ourselves and maybe, just maybe, what we say for ourselves is helpful to others. And being honest about how we "collars" fall far short of the ideals too is important.
I really like Father Matthew Moretz's video on Anglican prayer (see the Vodpod link on the right of the screen and check it out). He talks about praying the Daily Office and he openly admits that while praying the offices in the morning and evening every day are an ideal, he doesn't always live up to it either. That's right, ordination doesn't magically turn you into the consummately spiritually disciplined person most folks might imagine. We use the tools, but imperfectly of course as we are human ... and we are only human. So I'm trying, by the grace of God, to slow down and take time for some focused spiritual disciplines in Advent to prepare, but it happens in fits and starts.
Advent is about waiting ... and not quite knowing what is going to emerge out of the waiting. The people of Israel had waited in expectation for the Messiah ... for 450 years since the return from Babylon. The first Christmas took place in the midst of the anxiety of living in an occupied land. Some had very clear expectations of exactly what Messiah would be - a warrior king who'd kick the Romans out and restore Israel to its former glory and power. Waiting and hoping ... and finding out that the earthly idea of what Messiah should be wasn't what God had in mind!
Perhaps Advent is just as much about letting go of our expectations of what "should be" and instead open our hearts and minds to the unexpected which God can bring. We all have preconceived ideas about things, just like the people living in Palestine 2,000 years ago. But when God breaks through, it often shatters our neatly packaged ideas of how things should be and should work. God's Holy Spirit often brings chaos precisely to shatter the false images we build up about God and our relationships (with each other and God). Our false images are idols - we create them, we hold onto them, and the Holy Spirit comes to smash them.
So I'll let the Holy Spirit smash my images about what my Advent spirituality "should" look like and be content to carve out a few quiet moments to reflect on letting go and letting God do something surprising and new.
Now playing: Sir Neville Marriner - Past Three a Clock