Hello there! Advent and Lent are two of my favorite seasons of the Christian calendar year. My delight in these seasons has been highlighted by my own circumstances and also by learning more of how practicing these in a community of faith really make a difference.
In a season when much of our culture is populated by media or marketing, these gathering of weeks bring a refreshing renewal of focus and a helpful roadmap for unknown territory:
- They take mere information about the spiritual life and offer us the opportunity to “live into” aspects of the spiritual life that we might not otherwise choose or even know how to choose. Practicing these seasons of the Christian calendar help me grow in my character.
- As a community of faith we read Scripture from a common lectionary, joining with Christian people around the world in allowing ourselves to be guided and renewed by common themes. They help me grow in loving others well.
- The seasons also provide us with a clear roadmap of how to navigate often unwelcome and unknown territory like those of waiting on God, letting ourselves hope, sharing healing with others, and believing for the best. They help me live with purpose on mission.
Advent, in particular, gives us the opportunity to initially practice waiting and dreaming. Then, as Advent continues, we are ushered into allowing ourselves to hope for healing and a promise. Advent means “arrival”. This year will you join me and others as we practice waiting, dreaming, and allowing ourselves to hope in the deep places we need it most. Where is it that you need God to arrive?
Take a look next at the Overall Framework for practicing Advent this year. Then read an excerpt on Training In Waiting. Finally, download the Season Of Advent reading calendar to join in this season.
Practicing Advent makes a difference!
An Overall Framework: Waiting, Dreaming, Healing, Promise
Waiting—God’s people waited for the coming of the Messiah. We wait for God’s activity in our daily needs and hopes or dreams. Waiting here is not like a doctor’s office or a bus stop. It is active like a confident “watchman on a wall”, knowing there is someone caring, providing, and ultimately coming. To wait with God means to trust His character as you expect His arrival.
Dreaming—The Hebrew people dreamed of a king who would rule with justice and peace. The apostle Paul had a dream that all people would belong to God. John the Baptist invited people to dream with him about the coming of God’s reign. Just as candles can be given a flame, so God’s dreams can become real in our world.
Healing—We join with the writers of Scripture to sing of hope and healing. With our hearts we praise the Lord, and we are glad because of God our Savior. Not only does God desire healing for our frailties’, God also calls us to be part of the healing of the world.
Promise—God promised a Messiah. In a dream, God promised Joseph that Mary “will have a son, and you will name him Jesus – because He will save His people.” In the birth of Jesus, God’s promise of hope and healing is made in a new and wonderful way.
Advent is a time of waiting, dreaming, healing, and promise. “No one has heard, no ear has perceived, no eye has seen any God besides you, who works for those who wait for him.”Isaiah 64:4
Now continue reading this excerpt from Ruth Haley Barton: Training in Waiting
For the majority of us, waiting is quite the conundrum. On the one hand, most of us are not very good at it. Most of us have not had much training in waiting and there is no course that teaches one how to do it!
On the other hand, waiting is a necessary and very humbling aspect of life in general and the spiritual life in particular. There is something we need, and having to wait for it puts us in a position where we are not in control. If we refuse to wait and abort the process prematurely, we are left empty-handed.
Richard Rohr calls the discipline of waiting in the spiritual life “liminal space.” This comes from the Latin word limina which means threshold. As Rohr points out, liminal space is “a unique spiritual position where human beings hate to be but where the biblical God is always leading them. It is when you have left the tried and true, but have not yet been able to replace it with anything else. It is when you are finally out of the way. It is when you are between your old comfort zone and any possible new answer. If you are not trained in how to hold anxiety, how to live with ambiguity, how to entrust and wait, you will run…anything to flee this terrible cloud of unknowing.”1
Advent is an opportunity. If we are intentional about how we enter into this season, it has the potential to teach us how to wait in our own lives so that when the only option for us is to wait on God, we know what we’re doing.
Because we have met God in that frightening, liminal space we are able to stand firm and believe God in a way that makes it possible for others to believe as well.
We can begin by allowing ourselves to become aware of the liminal spaces in our own lives, determining to keep watch for Christ’s presence in those very places. So where is the place in your life right now where you know you need to wait? Where do you long for God to “tear open the heavens and come down” and do some awesome thing that you do not expect?
And so we pray…
In the awesome name of God, in the victorious name of Jesus, in the mysterious name of the Spirit, we acknowledge our God and we wait; we are still, we are silent, and we wait.2
Let’s practice Advent together because this season on the Christian calendar can make a difference in our daily lives; download the Season Of Advent reading calendar to join in this season.
Liz Lawrence, MA, LPC-S is counselor, coach and creative who is passionate about people. She directs the Streams Counseling Center in Austin, Texas and co-leads the non-profit Renue.Me whose mission is to invest in the dreams of leaders in underprivileged communities around the world. Connect with her at www.lizlawrencelpc.com or www.renue.me
Photo credits: graphic by artist on canva
Ruth Haley Barton, 2008. [www.thetransformingcenter.org].
1 Richard Rohr, as quoted in a sermon entitled “Living in Liminal Space” by Killian Noe, April 7, 2002.
2 Bread of Tomorrow, Janet Morley, ed. (Mary Knoll, NY: Orbis Books, 1992), p.18.