When I was a child, I loved spending time with my Grandmother. It seemed to me that her house and all her treasures had been there forever. One treasure in particular was kept in the back of the china cabinet: a Christmas snow globe with the little drummer boy. From time to time, I would take the snow globe from its spot at the back of the cabinet. I would turn it upside down and right side up until all the bits of snow were stirred and began to swirl around the little drummer boy. Watching the flurries drift through the glass and settle on the bottom was my favorite part. I watched patiently until the snow gathered and rested on the bottom of the globe.
This childhood memory has become a potent image that describes the peace of prayer. Life, ever in motion, swirls and dances. Many days, we are engaged in a flurry of activity…work, family life, relationships, volunteer groups, and everything else that fills our days. December adds preparation for special meals, gift exchanges, and seasonal events. Our lives take on the quality of a shaken snow globe…and some of us are very good at turning that snow globe over and over again. Prayer can become for us a moment when we still ourselves and let everything drift quietly down.
Several years ago, I began to search for another way to welcome December and the season of Advent. After being a Christian for so many years, I wanted God to open up the very familiar Christmas narrative in new ways. Here are a few spiritual practices that have helped me engage life and welcome Jesus in a more soulful way, a way that connects me with a greater sense of peace.
Set aside some time in a quiet place, when you are not in a hurry and consider…
- When have you felt most full of life during Advent and Christmas in the last few years?
- In what settings have you felt most connected to God and other people?
- When have you felt most empty or drained during Advent and Christmas?
- In what settings have you felt disconnected from God and others?
Spending time with these questions will help you listen to your own life and listen for how God might be inviting you to enter the Advent season.
A Daily Ritual
Choose a simple ritual as a way to give more attention to God’s presence every day. You might invite peace by sitting at the end of the day to enjoy a cup of hot tea…without your phone, or the computer. You might pray peace for others by gathering Christmas cards that you have received and praying for each family. When you are running errands, you could make eye contact and greet cashiers and tellers. You may read the Bible passages on Jesus’s birth or reflections in an Advent devotional. Remember that you are not out to discover the best tea or read the most pages…it’s about what might help you direct your attention and affection towards God.
Time with Others/Time Alone
Depending on your personality, you may relish time spent with others or you may crave more time alone. Too much time with others can leave us scattered and depleted. If we are always on the go, always in the company of others, our souls go into hiding and we neglect the life-giving connection of prayer and spiritual practice. However, too much time alone can turn us inward and leave us isolated. If we refuse opportunities to be with others, we miss meeting the Spirit of Christ in another person. As you consider your December calendar, look at the times you will be with others, and the times you will be alone. What is the invitation to meet God in solitude and the invitation to recognize God’s presence in the company of others?
When we spend time with God in prayer and spiritual practices, we cultivate a place of inner peace. Our words and actions originate from a place where peace is growing. We can “breathe peace” into others and into the world.
by Lori Anderson