As we move into the second month of our church sabbatical experience, it seems fitting to me that we do so as the season of Advent begins.
Advent literally means “to come” ‑ the arrival of something or someone important. For Christians, Advent is a time in our church year which focuses on the arrival of Jesus. We might actually think that most retailers are way ahead of us, because they’ve put out their Christmas decorations as soon as the Halloween candy is packed away, but in fact, Advent is not just about the celebration of Jesus’ arrival at his birth, but it is a time of anticipation and preparation in light of Jesus’ promise that he will return to establish God’s good reign over all creation.
In that light, the season of Advent is an invitation to look at the world, and at our own lives – what around us and within us is longing, deeply needing and seeking for the presence of God to mend and heal? Where do the wounds of this life lead us to cry out: “Come, Lord Jesus!” and fulfill the promise: “behold I am making all things new”?
Yet it is also a time to ask – are we truly ready for Jesus to be king? Do we actually want Jesus to reign – not just over others, but over our lives? Are there places where we have compartmentalized our faith, our allegiances, trying to serve both God and money, or family, or nation – or ourselves? Are we ready to let Jesus define “greatness”?
Advent is a time of waiting and listening, and that is appropriate for our second month of Sabbath. In November we have begun the process, being invited – and challenged – to simplify our lives where we can, to deliberately make time to rest, to pray, to listen for God. It’s not easy. For some, it’s meant temporarily stepping back from some things, for others, it’s been a time to try something different.
I felt the pinch myself earlier this month when I declined to go on a mission excursion because I needed time to recharge. I wanted to do both! It felt like letting people down by not going, and I hadn’t completely made my mind up until that very morning. But it was what I needed to do. I was in a much better frame of mind and spirit when I came into church on Sunday than I had been in on Friday. It reminded me that the sun still rose without me, and made me more excited to go along the next time.
The entry into Sabbath rest is like that – struggling against the pinching of schedules and expectations and the things we’d like to do. In this Advent time, we have an opportunity to move deeper into watching and listening: where is God moving in my life? What do I notice in my community? Where are people hurting, longing for something they may not even be able to name?
This is often a busy, hectic time of year; with all the shopping and cooking and events of the season, it might seem like the worst time to talk about simplifying, about Sabbath rest. Yet if we are willing to do so, God can use this season of waiting and listening to be a time of hope and of restoration.
Blessings on the Journey,