Advent is a time of preparation. Preparation to understand afresh what it means to us now that Christ came into the world as a tiny helpless baby. Preparation as a minister, to make others welcome at Christ’s Nativity as they respond to their own need and desire to make the story come alive for themselves, or for others.
For me at a personal level this year, Advent will roll through winter into Lent, and it looks like all my ‘preparation’ will last till Easter! It is proving to be a time when I have much to think about for events happening later next year, and when I am feeling more than a little ‘helpless’ myself.
God is in control, of that I am certain. He desires nothing harmful to us, though plenty that is challenging.
Yet very recently as a family we have sensed a spiritual battle that has seen (among other things) me suffering ‘mystery rash’, and our bank account being used fraudulently. I have also struggled to engage with the theme of Advent and preparations (both spiritual and more practical) for celebrating Christmas.
These things have proved a distraction from both the ministry in which I am involved in the parish, and my focus on God’s will. The devil it seems, doesn’t like it when we give God full control of our lives; yet I must remember I am not helpless against his works, as we have God protecting us, that we might serve him faithfully.
At my spiritual directors suggestion, I have re-written parts of Psalm 91 to pray with my family, over us. I actually found the process of re-writing it very helpful, as I journeyed emotionally into a place of shelter carrying with me all that I ‘hold’ that is being entrusted to me by God.
Which is much more in keeping with the Advent image of Mary, who trusted and glorified the Lord, despite all that God required of her, and all the tribulations that were sent in the wake of her obedience. It also brings with it a sense of light, in what could otherwise be emotional and spiritual darkness.
Perhaps I’m not so out of touch with Advent after all!
We dwell in the shelter of the Most High
and rest in the shadow of the Almighty.
We say of the LORD,
“He is our refuge and our fortress,
our God, in whom we trust.
He will save us
from the fowler’s snare and from the deadly pestilence.
He will cover us with his feathers,
and under his wings we will find refuge;
his faithfulness will be our shield and rampart…”
We declare that, “The LORD is our refuge,
and we make the Most High our dwelling.”
There no harm will overtake us,
and no disaster will come near our home.
For God will command his angels concerning us
to guard us in all our ways;
we will be lifted in their hands,
so that our feet will not strike against a stone.
Because we love the LORD and acknowledge his name,
we ask him to protect us, and rescue us
from the works of the devil.
We will call on his name, and he will answer us.
He will be with us in trouble,
He will deliver us and honour
that which we seek to do in his name.
And he will show us his salvation.