Advent is a time of watching and waiting. We watch, wait and pray for the coming of the Christ Child and the newness of His presence. We all desire newness in our lives—to overcome “staleness” in our work, our relationships or spiritual lives—and we need this newness to thrive. In order to grow, we must be challenged: we cannot move forward if we are stagnant, stale or even “comfortable.”
When Christ comes, and He said this multiple times, He wants us to be ready. And this “preparedness” or “readiness” is not an easy thing. Opening up to the changes He wants to make in us can be uncomfortable. This time of Advent preparation and waiting should be provoking to us: What are we waiting for? What do we need in order to grow? What is it that is holding us back from a true and authentic relationship with Christ? Why have our lives become stale or even boring?
To listen for the answers to these questions—and eventually respond—we need space. We need to bravely venture into silence to hear the true needs of the heart—to really listen to what Christ is asking of us and inviting us to. In this world of technology and noise that constantly nags and pulls us into distraction, it can be difficult to leave room for silence and contemplation.
There are many ways we can implement silence into our days—setting the phone alarm for “prayer breaks”, choosing to switch the radio off in the car or the TV off in the evening, etc. Any initiative is a good one, and it begins with an invitation. We must start by inviting Christ into our days, our work and our minds and hearts. We must ask Him to give us the silence we need to really hear Him. And, most of us will need to ask Him for the desire to pray, to listen or even the desire to start.
This is the beauty of Advent: an invitation to start again. It is the time where, no matter what we have done, how distant we have become, or how far away we have gone from Him, we are invited to start again in the newness of His birth. In fact, He is waiting for us!
The word waiting inspires all kinds of images and metaphors, but one of the most beautiful is from a prayer in the Rural Life Prayer Book. The prayer invites us to reflect upon our needs—both temporal and spiritual—using images of parched and barren land that is thirsting for rain and sustenance. A stale and stagnant land that is waiting for rain to stimulate the growth and life of the spring to come.
Only our God can give us what we need, and He wants to give us everything. Let us heed His call to silence and preparation this Advent to be ready for the newness He wishes to give us at Christmas.
Prayer in Advent
DEAR God, all over the world now, the children of Holy Mother Church are singing: “Send down dew from above, you heavens, and let the skies pour down upon us the rain we long for, Him, the Just One. May He, the Savior, spring from the closed womb of the earth!”
We know, Lord, and we have seen, what drought does to the land. We know, too, and have seen, the ravages of frost and cold. We have walked in barren fields and up dry hills, through dead, silent woods and lifeless valleys, and along thirsty beds of once flowing streams.
We have seen, clearly enacted for us upon the land, what our life would be without You. We can understand, now, how we should long for Your coming. Come, dear Lord and Savior, and do not delay! Rise up in Your power and come!
Let the rain of Your grace water the parched soil of our souls. Let the warmth of Your love thaw the coldness of our indifference. Let the life of Your Body and Blood vitalize our deadened energies, and stir us up to fruitful labor in Your vineyard.
O eternal Father, rouse our hearts out of the sleep of sin, so that we may clear the path of Your Son into our souls. Each year in Advent, You gladden us with the thought of our redemption. Grant us, we pray You, that, as we receive Your Son as our Redeemer now, we may, in the future, gladly and confidently meet Him as our Judge. Amen.
–Morgan Smith is the Director of Communication for Catholic Rural Life. She develops and leads Catholic faith formation programs and retreats.