A Sabbath Prayer to Begin Advent

“May this day bring Sabbath rest to my heart and my home. May my peace and perspective be renewed in the busyness of this season. May my hand be free enough from spending and acquiring to receive Your gift. May a little of the wonder and magic of Christmas awaken the child within me today. And may God’s Word feed me and His Spirit lead me into the week and into the life to come. Amen.”

Advent Begins

Today is the beginning of Advent. Advent means “arrival” and refers both to the coming of Christ in the incarnation that we celebrate at Christmas and the glorious return of Christ at the end of time.

The following reflection from Lectio 365 was part of my devotions this morning. Maybe it will bless you too. The word maranatha, seen in the threefold prayer below, is Greek for Come, Lord Jesus and is found in Revelation 22:20. Here is part of the devotion I read:

Way back in the twelfth century, Bernard of Clairvaux, who was the founder of the Cistercian order of monks, said that Christ comes to us in three different ways: firstly, in Bethlehem at Christmas; secondly, at the end of the age; and thirdly, in the lives of believers every single day. I pray for all three of Christ’s comings this Advent:

Thank You, Father, for loving us so much that You sent Your Son to save us.
Maranatha. May Jesus be born again amongst us this Christmas. 

Thank You, Jesus, that You came before and You are coming again in glory.
Maranatha. We long for You to return and make all things new.

Thank You, Holy Spirit, for filling my life.
Maranatha. May the Lord Jesus Christ be born again in me today.

Spiritual Journaling

For a good part of my life I have journaled. Admittedly, sporadically at times. More so in recent years. Being an introvert, it’s one of the ways I have learned to navigate the terrain of my heart, to process my thoughts. Often, my journaling takes the shape of direct prayers. I invite the Lord—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit—into the mess of my everyday. Though in one sense, all of my journaling is a form of prayer. After all, my God is intimately acquainted with all my thoughts and desires. He knows me better than I know myself.

So journaling, then, is not like writing in a diary. It’s not a rote account of the days events. It’s the deliberate unveiling of my soul—to myself in the presence of God. It’s a spiritual discipline. I rarely go back and read what I’ve written. That would be like recording myself praying out loud and listening to the recording later on. It’s not about capturing information; it’s about giving expression to the process of what is going on with me spiritually.

For some, spiritual journaling is way outside of their comfort zone, and might seem to be a strange idea. Perhaps because it sounds too “touchy-feely.” Or maybe because being that vulnerable and honest is difficult. I understand that. That’s not me. I’m almost the opposite—at some point, in some way, words have to emerge to give expression to my internal goings-on. Deeper conversations with trusted friends and family is part of this. And so is journaling.

If you’ve never thought of journaling or the idea sounds weird or uncomfortable, I have two suggestions. First, if you have regular times of reading Scripture, write down a few thoughts/questions/feelings that arise when you do. Put it in point form. Don’t put pressure on yourself to be articulate and profound sounding or even neat and tidy. Be honest. Be yourself.

Second, write out a prayer to God. I know this sounds entirely lacking in spontaneity. Maybe you’ve never thought much about the value of pre-written prayers. But there’s plenty of them in the Bible, including the entire Book of Psalms. Perhaps read a psalm and then write it out in your own words. But, again, be honest. No one else is going to know what you’ve written. Unless you choose to share it, what you’ve written is between you and God.

When we engage with God in a new way, we might be surprised how we hear him speak in new ways. We need to get out of our comfort zones because by staying in them our expectations of God never grow and are never challenged. Our comfort zones become a box in which our spiritual lives become stagnant and unfruitful. God is too big for all our boxes. Making use of a new spiritual discipline is way of acting on and experiencing this reality. Spiritual journaling is one of those disciplines.