The word Advent comes from the Latin, adventus, which means "coming", translated from the Greek word, Parousia παρουσία (arrival). Advent is traditionally a time of preparation for God's arrival. The texts and themes of advent are rooted in biblical passages that call us to be alert, to watch, to be attentive. How are you and your family staying spiritually alert?
At the beginning of each advent season, I am reminded of a story my mother used to tell me, which was told to her by the missionaries, the story of Rip Van Winkle, the man who slept for 20 years. You are probably familiar with the story of Rip Van Winkle. It is a story about staying alert. But there is another point in that story that is almost always completely overlooked: it was a sign on the inn in the little town on the Hudson from which Rip went up into the mountain for his long sleep. When he went up, the sign had a picture of King George III of England. When he came down, years later, the sign had a picture of George Washington, the first president of the United States. When Rip looked up at the picture of George Washington, he was completely lost; he did not know who he was. This reveals to us that the most striking fact about the story of Rip Van Winkle is not that he slept 20 years, but that he slept through a revolution. While he was peacefully snoring up on the mountain, a great revolution was taking place in the world - indeed, a revolution which would, at points, change the course of history. And Rip Van Winkle knew nothing about it; he was asleep.
How are we staying alert this advent season? Are we, like Rip Van Winkle, sleeping through a spiritual revolution of God's arrival? Are we so caught up with the hustle and bustle our own lives that we miss the visitation of God? My hope is that this advent will be different--that we will prepare your home but more importantly your heart for God's visitation.
Here are 10 ways to stay alert during this advent season:
• Begin your day by carving out time for personal prayer and reflection
• Practice extravagant generosity
• Reconnect with family and those who have enriched your life
• Help to make the world more just and equitable
• Speak out for those who are on the margins
• Invest in a cause bigger than yourself (like learning more about how you can make a difference in stopping human trafficking)
• Rediscover the meaning and essence of Christmas
• Journal through Advent focused on where you see God each day
• Expand your circle of friendship by listening more and speaking less
• Walk in someone else's shoes
Welcome to the Season of Advent. Stay Alert!