Sometimes it feels as though we spend our lives getting ready, preparing for the next big thing. Getting ready can of course make us feel impatient; sometimes we even manage to lose patience with others! It is both events and other people that seem to conspire to hold us back, preventing us from just getting on with things. The real problem, of course, might not be events and other people but ourselves!
The trouble is that it is difficult to slow down with Christmas just around the corner. But we need to slow down so that we can do some real spiritual work for Advent is a time when we are asked to consider our own spiritual growth. Spiritual growth, or growth in holiness, cannot, must not, be hurried.
Advent is gift which affords us the opportunity of focusing purposefully on ourselves and, the quality of our spiritual relationships. If we do this through Advent the good news is that we will become ready to receive Jesus at Christmas.
Can I encourage you this Advent to spend just ten minutes each day alone in silent prayer before God. Maybe one of the ways you could do this is by slowly and meditatively praying the Night Collect just before you go to bed:
Lighten our darkness we beseech thee O Lord and in thy great mercy defend us from all dangers and perils of this night for the love of thy only Son, our saviour Jesus Christ.’
If hurry and impatience are two of the issues we are asked to confront in Advent another is complacency.
The gospel reading we have heard compares ‘two women grinding meal together’ where 'one will be taken and one will be left,’ the passage also says of the two workers in the field ‘one will be taken and one will be left.’
We can all slip into complacency. I know that there are times in my life when my own prayers have been dry, and sleepy. I do know that there have been times when I have attended church and said my prayers as if by rote; operating from an ethic of duty rather than love.
Advent asks us to reverse any notions of complacency, in the words of St Paul, ‘waking from sleep,’ and stepping from ‘darkness’ into ‘light.’ Advent asks to so orientate our hearts that we will not be the one left behind at the coming of Jesus.
Again, the only way I know of to avoid spiritual complacency and reverse the trend is through prayer. My favourite Advent prayer goes like this:
God of hope who brought love into this world be the love that dwells between us. God of hope who brought peace into this world be the peace that dwells between us. God of hope who brought joy into this world be the joy that dwells between us. God of hope, the rock we stand upon, be the centre, the focus of our lives always, and particularly this Advent time.
So this Advent could I encourage you to join with me in spending just a few minutes each and every morning in quiet before God and slowly praying the advent prayer and then, just before bed, the night collect so that come Christmas we will be truly ready to receive our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ, Amen.
Rev. Andrew Lightbown