This time of year, Christmas can feel like a destination found at the top of Mount Everest. So, loaded down with a backpack full of expectations, I slowly make forward progress up the mountain.
Interrupting my expedition, the Lord invites me into the season of Advent. When I go to church on Sunday, November 28th, our church, with churches all over the world, will light the first candle on the Advent Wreath. This lighted candle reminds me to mark the first Sunday of the Advent season.
I find a moment to pause in the soft glow of candlelight to consider what is most important to me. I set down that heavy backpack and pray.
A Prayer for the First Sunday of Advent
Almighty God, give us grace to cast away the works of darkness, and put on the armor of light, now in the time of this mortal life in which your Son Jesus Christ came to visit us in great humility; that in the last day, when he shall come again in his glorious majesty to judge both the living and the dead, we may rise to the life immortal; through him who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.
(Anglican Church in North America Book of Common Prayer 2019)
Advent, an essential part of the liturgical calendar for believers worldwide, gives me a season of 4 or 5 weeks to prepare my heart and mind for Jesus’ birthday on December 25th. The tone of the prayer above reflects so clearly the struggle we live in between Jesus’ birthday and Jesus’ great return.
Spiritual darkness surrounds each of us, so I must find ways to put on the armor of light and cast away the works of darkness. If I am so focused on the arduous climb up the mountain to Christmas day, I might miss out on my need to prepare myself spiritually. Advent is a gift of margin at a time of year when excess can overwhelm me.
Today I am praying through Psalm 16 with Advent on my mind.
O God, you hear my cry to be preserved and you answer with your presence where I can take refuge and rest. There I find clarity. Being with You is a way I can put on the armor of light.
In Your presence, I realize that all I have does not compare to you, Lord.
In Your presence, I know I can hold loosely to anything else I possess.
In Your presence, I can give up having it all.
Great freedom is found in this place of surrender. I am no longer weighed down by what I feel I must have.
I have all I need in You, alone. Sitting in this truth remedies the drive to find perfect Christmas gifts for everyone and spend my free time shopping.
Thank you for the gift of a faith community. Friends and family who follow You fill my heart with delight. I see a greater revelation of who you are, Lord, in how your image is reflected in each of their lives.
Give me compassion for those who run after and worship another god. Keep me accountable to pray for them to see and seek You.
Help me see opportunities in this Advent season to share the real reason for Christmas with my circle of influence. Help me to invite those who might not have a church home into mine. Let me cast away the works of darkness by practicing intentional hospitality.
Lord, You make provision for me for now and in this season of waiting for Your son’s return.
Guide me through Advent and help me make more room in my heart for You. You are my chosen portion. May my checkbook ledger and schedule reflect that truth.
What could I give up to make more head and heart space for Advent contemplation?
What could I take on to help me spend more time with You?
Thank you for the encouraging guidance found in Your word.
Even in the dark night, when I don’t know where to turn, the Holy Spirit brings truths from the Bible to mind.
As I am prone to get lost and disoriented, thank you for the supernatural GPS system of guidance you provide. As I light a candle on my Advent wreath, may I find ways to share the light of Christ this week?
Lord, I thank you today for my salvation. Your son came near, died on the cross, and rose again to give me access to You. Help me to find ways to walk in that peace and security today as a way to cast away the darkness. Through the saving work of Jesus’s death on the cross, I have light living inside me. Help me to shine.
Lord, thank you for this first week of Advent. Help me take time to be in your presence and refill my heart with the joy found there. Help me to be ready to share joy with a watching and weary world. As I spend time with you each morning, dress me in the armor of light, so I might bring you glory. Amen
This year the first Sunday of Advent is November 28th, the second Sunday of Advent is December 5th, the third Sunday of Advent is December 12th, and the fourth Sunday of Advent is December 19th. So stay tuned in December for more posts on Advent. I hope you will consider taking the Advent journey with me this year.
How do you and your family celebrate Advent?
*You might have noticed that this is a second journey through Psalm 16. I believe the psalms are amazing pieces of Biblical wisdom that can be used to process various emotions. Hence, the term: soul tending in the psalms.