The season of Advent is one of the most beautiful in the Christian tradition, but it can be overwhelming. With all the shopping, feasting and visiting with friends and family we forget how it all began. By the time Christmas arrives we often find ourselves exhausted and eager to move on to the new year. It’s no surprise that we feel a sense of longing for something more, something that will restore us to the true wonder of the occasion, of the moment when the Divine became human and lived among us. How can we recover what has been lost? How can we answer that longing?
God also experiences longing. When we are suffering God longs to heal us. This longing was so strong that it created an event that split time and changed the course of history. Saint Paul the apostle wrote eloquently about it in his letter to the Philippians. He said that Christ:
who, though he was in the form of God,
did not regard equality with God
as something to be exploited,
but emptied himself,
taking the form of a slave,
being born in human likeness.
So, in our longing, we are like God. We long to return to the source from which we came. As we move into the intensity of the season and look for ways to resolve that longing there are things all of us can do that will bring us closer to God. They are simple and close at hand.
First, we can participate in communion as often as possible. If we pay close attention to the words that are said and sung during the communion service we will hear God longing to be united with us. By taking the bread and wine we welcome God directly into our bodies and our lives. For a few minutes we set our selves aside, “empty” ourselves, and surrender to the presence of God.
Another way we can answer the call of our longing is simply to sit in a comfortable place, close our eyes, focus on a word that is sacred to us, and let go of all the day’s activities. This practice is usually referred to as centering prayer and comes from a Christian tradition that is almost as ancient as Christianity itself. Learn more about centering prayer here.
Centering prayer can also be practiced in other ways. For example, our deacon Catherine reminded us recently that her practice of centering prayer is knitting. She often knits while she chats with friends or leads a class on ministry. It centers her. It gives her repose and stillness. In that stillness she becomes more aware of the divine presence
In our daily routines, despite the rush, there is always a way to ease our longing for God because, in truth, God is always present. We just have to remember to pay attention.
All humans experience longing on a daily basis. We all long for something, someone or some experience that will make us feel complete. Many times these things are forever beyond our reach. But the truest experience of completion comes from the deepest experience of longing – that longing to be at home with the source of all existence. That experience is available to all of us because everyone carries within the spirit of the one who made us. In reality, that spirit is who we truly are. All that is required is that we set our daily selves aside and listen to that still, small voice whispering in the silence. It reminds us that we are loved completely and unconditionally. What better way to celebrate Christ’s arrival than to spend a few seconds in the warmth of His embrace?
– Jake Berry