Reclaiming Advent: Spiritual Disciplines

Advent will be upon us faster than I care to imagine. It always seems to move too fast, with the focus on the end goal of Christmas Day. I remember fondly as a child the anticipation of this season, as soon as the Christmas tree was in the living room. The time leading up to Christmas, at least in my memory, was often better than the event itself. I remember quiet moments in a dim living room, staring closely at the lights of the Christmas tree with a calm sense of meditation, although I probably would not have considered it meditation at the time.

This year I feel a strong desire to reclaim that peace in the otherwise hectic and chaotic season. Christmas is still the end-goal of our culture, but in the counter-culture that Christ would ask for, I want to instead focus on Advent, and focus on the anticipation, rather than the event.

To that end, I have a question: what spiritual practices/disciplines have you found that help you to focus on the season of advent, or the presence of God?

This morning, I woke up early, before sunrise, and sat on the patio of our back yard. To set the stage, I was hoping to see some of the Leonid meteor shower, but the sky was starting to lighten with the approaching dawn, so that was not going to happen. Instead of staring at the quickly disappearing stars, I prepared a percolator for the morning coffee, and sat it on a camp-stove on the patio table. This engaged three of my senses: the occasional sip of the coffee, the aroma emanating from the pot, and the gentle hiss of the stove making a background white noise on the otherwise silent morning. I read some blogs I had fallen behind on, explored some podcasts I might want to subscribe to, and before I knew it, nearly 90 minutes had passed and the sun was gentling kissing the tree tops.

I never consciously prayed during this time, but I feel like I was continuously in an attitude of prayer. I wonder if this is in some way what the Benedictines strive for when all activities and thought are done as a prayer, or in accompaniment with prayer? This was a good start to my day.

The reason for my question, however, is because I am looking for something more sustainable than 90 minutes each day. I am not sure I could commit to this routine and amount of time every morning. On the other hand, John Wesley asked those who would follow him in roles of spiritual leadership to be sure to start each day with prayer: at least 4-5 hours each morning. Maybe I need to reconsider what is sustainable in a daily spiritual discipline?

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