Advent begins on Sunday 2 November. It is a time of preparation for Christmas. Christians have traditionally used the time to prepare spiritually for the celebration of the coming of Jesus into the world.

There is a significant conflict here for those of us who seek to live the Christian life, then. Because we who live in the world tend to become busier and busier as we prepare for Christmas – we get ‘sucked in’ to the rather consumerist model which says that this time is a time to purchase. Preparation for Christmas becomes, then, a series of forays to the shopping centre in order to buy for those we love, to buy food and drink for the inevitable Christmas season, and to otherwise indulge ourselves. And our lives tend to get busier in this time. We attend more things, because there are more things to attend. Our attention is divided, and we can become lost.

In our parish last year we were challenged, rather, to slow down in Advent. And if slowing down wasn’t possible, to be as mindful as possible in the busyness.

Here are some things you could do to help you slow down.

• Commit to spending some time in quiet each day. Maybe meditation, yoga, walking in the quiet of the day. If it is walking, do it without your iPod. Just be alone with God.
• Commit to praying each day. It need not be long or complicated (try The Sacred Space or Pray-As-You-Go). Some part of the liturgy of the hours can be very helpful, though, as a way of bringing a framework for prayer into your life.
• Commit to reading the Bible each day. Again, some framework can be very helpful. Bishop Michael Hough’s notes (PDF) are something I’ve found useful. Lectio divina is a good way of slowly ‘digesting’ a Bible reading.
• Choose to do something each day that expresses God’s love. Perhaps smile at a stranger. Talk to an elderly neighbour or water their garden. Something small, but which will possibly make a large difference.

This prayer comes from A Prayer Book for Australia. It is used on the first Sunday in Advent, but the tradition is to use it as an additional collect (prayer) at morning and evening prayer throughout Advent.

Almighty God,
give us grace that we may cast away the works of darkness
and put on the armour of light,
now in the time of this mortal life
in which your Son Jesus Christ came among us in great humility,
that on the last day,
we he shall come again in his glorious majesty to judge the living and the dead,
we may rise to the life immortal,
through him who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and forever, Amen.


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