Be still and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth! –Psalm 46:10
I’m not sure about you, but the concepts of “preparation” and “stillness” are mutually exclusive in my world. I don’t prepare for anything by being still. (I guess, if you know me, you know that I’m rarely ever still, preparing or otherwise, actually!) Hosting someone for dinner? Between the cooking and the cleaning and the table setting, there’s certainly no time for stillness. Deadline at work? Better not sit down and read a book or put your feet up even for a minute. Getting ready for a trip? Planning, packing, organizing–no time to rest. There’s no way you can prepare for something by slowing down and being still. Can you?
It is waiting that attunes us to the invisible in a highly material world. In contemporary society, what counts is what we can get and what we have. Instead of listening for the voice of God in the winds of change around us, we can come to hear only our own.
The function of Advent is to remind us what we’re waiting for as we go through life too busy with things that do not matter to remember the things that do. When year after year we hear the same scriptures and the same hymns of longing for the life to come, of which this one is only its shadow, it becomes impossible to forget the refrains of the soul. –Joan Chittister, The Liturgical Year: The Spiraling Adventure of the Spiritual Life
Every year, our staff discusses how to prepare for Advent; how can we clear the church’s calendar of all the usual “stuff” to make space for the preparation and stillness the season calls for? Somehow, despite our best intentions, we never quite seem to achieve the calendar-clearing we hope for, personally or for the church. There are just so many good things to do to get ready! Outreach projects and decorating and service planning and devotional writing. Stillness, yes…but who wants to give up Operation Christmas Child? Or Advent wreaths? Or the decorations or the devotional? These are traditions that have helped us prepare for years, and despite the lack-of-stillness required to make them happen, we’re loathe to give them up, love them and what they represent as we do.
What you’re reading now–and what I hope you’ll read along with our All Saints family throughout Advent–is an attempt to do both: hold onto a dear tradition of preparing together while honoring the scaling back and redirection called for in a season of stillness and waiting, particularly in a season of transition such as this particular Advent is at All Saints. This year, as always, some of the talented writers and visual artists in our congregation have contributed their gifts to our Advent devotional; but instead of being distributed in a printed form, this year’s devotional will be hosted on our church’s blog.
While I personally–and many of you, too, no doubt–will miss holding the beautiful booklet that has been our devotional for years, I am grateful that the tradition of being able to share in the beauty of our congregants’ gifts will not be compromised even as our devotional’s format changes. There are several simple ways to access the devotional: 1) visit the blog here directly each day to read the entry for that day: https://blogasc.wordpress.com, 2) visit the church’s website, where you’ll find a link to the blog: www.allsaints-chd.org, or 3) (perhaps most simply) subscribe to the blog’s feed, which will deliver each day’s post directly to your email inbox: click on the link to the left of this post that says “subscribe” or visit https://blogasc.wordpress.com/how-to-subscribe/. Whichever way you choose, I hope that you’ll join me in making room to be still this season as we prepare again for the coming of Jesus the Messiah.