Advent and Waiting Without Words

Something I've prayed this week:

Our King and Savior now draws near: Come, let us adore him.

Advent is drawing to a close and Christmas is four days away. It seems like every year once Christmas comes and then is gone, I have some sense that, yet again, I missed it. Sure, each year I enjoy the time with family whom I love and the different things we get to be a part of, different celebrations and opportunities to so good for others. Yet still, I am well acquainted with the post-Christmas Day sense of having thrown a party for someone and not paid much real attention to them while we were both there. Years ago, I occasionally played around with writing songs and one line that stuck in my mind from a song I never finished was, "Sorry I missed you at the party I threw for you last week." Christmas has often been like that for me, and my guess is, for many of us.

Taking on this experiment this year, though, has helped me to linger more attentively in these weeks that the church has traditionally called Advent, and my hope is that when the big day comes next week, I will be able to notice a difference and have a sense of having been more attentive to the one for whom most of the world throws this party each year. I like the way that the prayer for this last Sunday of Advent says it:

Purify our conscience, Almighty God, by your daily visitation, that your Son Jesus Christ, at his coming, may find in us a mansion prepared for himself...

That would surely be quite a different experience from my normal, less attentive Christmases, both from my perspective and God's.

As the rhythms which this experiment have imposed on me this Advent season have had time to sink in, I've noticed a meaningful connection between Advent and the practice of praying without words. Advent is about waiting- about remembering Israel's long, desperate waiting for the coming of the Messiah; about them waiting for God's address to and deliverance of them as the prophets had seemingly disappeared and the oppressors continued to succeed one another; about Zechariah and Elizabeth's waiting childless for so many years- then after Gabriel's promise, waiting for the birth of their son, John; and about Mary's waiting after another promise for the birth of her son, Jesus. Apparently, through these two boys, Israel's centuries of waiting would be brought to completion.

Advent is also about our waiting- about our waiting for the day when Jesus' royal coming will finally take place and the prayer he taught that so many have uttered for so long ("may your kingdom come and your will be done on earth as it is in heaven") would finally and fully be fulfilled. It's about our waiting for God to make things right in the midst of a world full of the strange mix of compassion and beauty with pain and school shootings. We wait for the day when King Jesus will reappear, all of our little kingdoms will submit in full loving devotion to his, and everything will be made new, with sin and death's defeat being completed forever.

And maybe there's no better way to practice the waiting that Advent is about than by praying without words. We wait on our minds and hearts to settle down and trust in God, for God to address us whenever and however he sees fit, and for God's slow work of transforming us into the likeness of Jesus to be brought to its completion.

[This is 10th post from A Year of Living Prayerfully.]