Mindful Advent

Yesterday at our morning worship service, I invited our congregation to participate in a mindfulness spiritual practice this Advent.  Our lives are so busy already, then we take on all the expectations of the Christmas season (decorations, shopping, entertaining, traveling,…) and then there is the stress of the news (the less said about that, the better)which too often leaves no room for the spiritual side of the season.  So many people I know put up Christmas decorations much earlier than they usually do (myself included), in part because I think we are seeking some comfort and some inspiration.  We want to be present to the season, not just be on auto-pilot trying to get through it and miss what could be blessing.

So I invite you to join with me in a this mindfulness exercise: each day from now to Christmas, make a little space in your day.  It doesn’t have to be long, and it doesn’t have to be a special time set aside — this could be done while walking the dog, or standing in line at the grocery story, or while drinking your coffee in the morning, or brushing your teeth,…).  During this time, focus on a word (I’m going to suggest words each day, but you can pick just one word for the whole season or one word a week; just let it be something that is seasonal, and that will enhance the spirit of the season).  Focus on the word of the day.  Perhaps use one or more of the following questions to help you focus your attention.  What does it look like? What image comes to mind? What smell or taste does it bring up? If you could touch it, what would it feel like? Where is it located? Who do you think of when you think of it? How do you feel as you think of it (no judgment): comforted, happy, sad, challenged, inspired,…?  Feel free to focus on your word through creative outlets (draw, doodle, paint, write a poem,…), even pray during this mindful time.

Yesterday (12/2) our word was hope, a traditional focus for the first Sunday in Advent (i.e., the four weeks leading up to Christmas).  I shared a quote with my folks from Elsa Cook, who wrote a message for the UCC Daily Devotional from 11/23/18, that reminded me of the difficulty but absolute necessity of hope: “We don’t do this work [of justice and love] because we are convinced we will win. We struggle for justice because there isn’t enough hope and somebody needs it.”  Hope, as Cook reminds us, is not just a feeling or a wish; hope is a verb, an action we take, not because we will conquer all evil, but because our hope is needed by someone.


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