A Matter of Faith 

November 24, 2014

Advent begins this Sunday, November 30.  Advent is my favorite time of year in the church calendar, full of expectation and hope. During Advent, we quiet ourselves and wait in darkness for the coming Light –for the Christ child who brings hope, peace, joy and love to our broken, troubled world. Just when the world outside appears in its most frenzied, manic state, we strive to slow down, pray, light candles and prepare our hearts and minds for Christmas. 

I encourage us all to seek a personal spiritual practice and commit to a few moments of daily focus during Advent. One option is to read Plymouth’s Advent Daily Devotional online, which will be posted on the church website beginning this Sunday, December 30, the week of Hope. The church office also offers limited copies of the UCC Advent devotional booklet for a nominal suggested donation.

Lighting candles on an Advent wreath, singing O Come O Come Emmanuel or simply spending a few minutes in silent contemplation each day can help us connect to the Divine and our true purpose in the midst of our all too busy lives. Please feel free to contact me at JCastle@PlymouthChurchSeattle.org for more ideas of simple Advent spiritual practices. Anyone who would like to submit an Advent devotional during this season, please send it by Friday noon for the following week.

 Hope. Peace. Joy. Love. Let’s live into these themes in our Advent walk together this final month of 2014, as we prepare our minds and hearts for the Light to enter the world…and our lives, yet again. -Jennifer Castle

Spiritual Practices for Advent – Some Possibilities

Advent begins Sunday, November 30 and lasts until Christmas Day. The Great Commandment is to "love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength and your neighbor as yourself" (with the implication that caring for God's earth is rolled into the bargain). Here are some ideas for observing Advent that appeal to the creative and literary, to the development of community and relationships, to promote social action and to encourage ecological responsibility and individual spiritual concerns.

  • Choose just one of these (such as writing a thank you note) and do it every day. 
  • Choose one category and repeat it throughout Advent. 
  • Choose one from each category to do throughout Advent. 
  • Agree with a group of friends, or with your congregation, to practice one or more of these together. 

Literary/Media/Arts

  1. Choose one great novel you have never read, and read it this Advent. Which character do you closely identify with and why?
  2. Choose a great novel you have read before and re-read it. Take your time. What do you see this time that you didn't see before? A character or theme you missed the first time, a theme that touches you now because 5/10/20 years later you see the world differently?
  3. Choose one musician or artist and listen to their work regularly throughout Advent. Listen to the words. Listen to the tone, melody, structure and texture of the music. Why does it move you?
  4. Write a few words each day and create your own Advent journal.

 Social/Community Spirituality

 

  1. What relationships in your life are cooled, ruptured, upset? Say you’re sorry.
  2. Write a random thank you note (or email, but handwritten is so lovely!). Who needs to receive your appreciation?
  3. Make a list of your friends. One per day, send a brief email, make a phone call or send a brief note to say hello.
  4. Invite friends for a Simple Sunday Soup lunch. The company is the point.  Eat together. Have simple, unfussy food and celebrate good, sustaining company.
  5. Make a point of smiling and saying thank you to people – in shops, on buses, in stores, on the street, to delivery people, etc.
  6. Power down. Negotiate a no-phones at mealtime policy in your home. Switch off all technology 30-60 minutes before bedtime, and make sure you have 30 minutes of uninterrupted time with the person(s) you love the most several times a week.

 Spirituality and Prayer

  1. Read all the way through one Gospel of your choice. This works out to be about half a chapter a day, or less if you pick Mark.
  2. Say a prayer of thanksgiving every day. Thank God for things you usually take for granted: food, clothes, shelter, life itself.
  3. Find a comfortable place to sit or lie down, and learn to keep still and silent for five minutes or more every day. (You might need to start with one minute and gradually work your way up.) Listen to your inner voice.

Social Action

  1. Donate unwanted clothes and goods to a thrift store.
  2. Volunteer time at a local non-profit organization.
  3. Make a donation to a non-profit organization.
  4. Join Plymouth’s Living Wage efforts or Immigration Reform efforts.
  5. Join the dots between prayer and action: pray for those areas and organizations in which you volunteer and/or give money.
  6. Revive a medieval habit: reduce your household bills by eating more simply, and give the money saved to a cause that is important to you.

 Ecological/Environmental  

  1. Change light bulbs in your house to eco-bulbs, and turn off lights when you leave the room.
  2. Turn the thermostat down by one or two degrees.
  3. Hang up your laundry instead of using the dryer.
  4. Unplug your appliances when not in use.
  5. Reduce food waste. Shop with a list; eat leftovers, only buy and cook what you need.
  6. Spend time thinking about your shopping habits. How can you avoid buying what you don’t really want or need?  Avoid shopping for leisure.
  7. Use your bicycle, the bus or carpool. Less fuel used = happier earth.
  8. Find a source of locally grown food and support it, or grow something yourself.

 Joy-inspiring Spiritual Practices

  1. Pause 4 or 5 times today to give thanks for what you usually take for granted.
  2. Take a walk, alone or with friends. Pause to look for beauty.
  3. De-clutter a cupboard or closet. Give away what you don't use or need.
  4. Sing! Singing fills your system with oxygen and makes you feel better.
  5. Look up! What do you miss when you’re not paying attention to what is around you?
  6. Clean the windows. Let the sunshine in! 
  7. Say thank you to others, for simple things. Tell people when you appreciate their kindness or value their friendship. Don't wait to give a eulogy - tell them now.

 This list inspired by maggidawn.blogspot.com



Topics: Advent, Church Life

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