The thought of getting ready for Christmas overwhelms me. Decorating the house, buying the gifts, making the reservations, baking the sweets, dragging the kids to forced memory making, and partying with friends all mesh with the day to day activities that already fill life. How is it possible to fit all the extra into a few short weeks of preparation?
It seems impossible.
And impossibly, church asks something more of us too. We must prepare in a special way during these weeks, the season of Advent. Not only are we doing all of the tasks to get ready for the family time Christmas brings, but we are also must prepare our hearts. The two to-do lists often clash in my world.
Advent calls for prayer. Christmas calls for action.
This is the season when we must find a way to give a nod to both. Prayer and action can live together, but only with the utmost of intentionality.
My candles are (almost) ready to light our way through the final weeks as we await Jesus’ arrival. Their purple and pink among the traditional reds and greens remind me to take a breath, light the wick, and turn towards God, even if only for a moment. These are the times when every moment counts.
This is the time when the biblical call to pray without ceasing sounds as simple as bringing dinosaurs out of extinction. It is simply not happening. How can we possibly pray without ceasing while the list of to-dos keeps increasing?
Unless we reconsider the phrase. Can we do that?
Maybe prayer without ceasing means more than sitting still in the quiet of a church. Maybe it means listening and responding to God in the in-between moments of our days. Maybe it means loving when we’re ready and even when we’re afraid. Maybe it means finding places that remind us how important it is to take time with God so we continue hearing his voice.
Katherine Dreyer, one of my favorite theologians, suggests busy-prayer. She gives us the gift of noisy contemplation as a way to live in prayer without setting aside our lives. This offering allows us to recognize our entire life as a prayer. We are called to live in this world, and because this is true, there must be a way to pray while we are living. Even in the busyness.
Advent gives us a prescribed daily moment to enter into intentional prayer as we light the candles in our wreath. In that moment we can thank God, ask him for help, or simply sit in the quiet and breathe. That intentional moment opens our hearts so that we can move from prayer in the quiet to prayer in the noise. Our sweet moments of silence as we gaze into the flame light the acts of love waiting to be lived.
These bubbles of action have an impact greater than we could anticipate. Our prayerful action reminds people that God’s love is all around us, that God is forever trying to reach out and guide us home.
In Hebrew, the word for breath is ruach. Ruach translates as more than just breath, though, it is the life force within each one of us and all that is around us. Even the wind, as it powers through the world unseen, is defined as ruach.
In those prayerful busy moments of action, we are the ruach of the world. God breathes through us, guiding us to love. We only need keep our heart turned towards the light.
We can do this.
Come Sunday, light that first purple candle. Take a breath and get ready. Jesus is coming.