The Three “W’s” of Advent

I feel before starting this blog that I must apologise for not having written it for three weeks.  Like other people sometimes the demands on time and energy are more than I can manage: something has to give.

Perhaps this is the way we go into Advent.  Life gets so busy and what gives is the spiritual side.  To begin with we determine that we are going to make this season very special: we are going to concentrate on the themes of Advent.  But then instead of preparing our hearts and souls for the birth of Christ we find ourselves yet again just thinking about Christmas Day and all the things we have to do to prepare practically – so that good wishes have been sent to everyone we should wish them for, presents are bought and wrapt and the turkey is on the table, cooked!

In a way the things that have demanded so much of my time lately are exactly the right opportunities for getting down to what Advent is about, Waiting, Watching and Wondering.  You see, I have been working on two retreats, both of them were dealing with Advent and incarnation.  There is nothing that helps make one as attentive to the subject in hand as either being on retreat or accompanying people on retreat.

These three “W” are God’s gifts to us in Advent.  The Waiting is not the kind of irritating waiting of the Post Office queue or the anxious consideration forward thinking, running out of time waiting.  This waiting is attention to the present moment, real attention to the gift of the present moment and all that is available to us in it.  As Dostoevsky said,

Love all that has been created by God, both the whole and every grain of sand. Love every leaf and every ray of light. Love the beasts and the birds, love the plants, love every separate fragment. If you love each separate fragment, you will understand the mystery of the whole resting in God.

You may be sitting in silence quietly waiting “for the God to speak” or out walking, but the important thing is that we wait attentively.

The second “W”, Watching, is to be alert to what God might share with us in any given moment.  Another way to put this is that we are invited to listen spiritually to God speaking to us through whatever medium God gives us.  This may be scripture, nature or an item of news.  It may be a sudden compassionate movement of the heart when we see an advertisement on the television asking for donations for a Syrian Child or Wateraid.  It may be that we receive a unexpected insight from the Holy Spirit or a deepening of faith.  To this end it is very helpful, I find, to have a special book to read for Advent or to look at paintings, listen to music or do whatever works for you.

The final “W” is for Wondering.  Of course we hope that all our waiting and watching will lead to a sense of wonder.  But this wondering can be of two kinds – the wondering which is about the state of the world, our own or others health, even, can I really believe this promise of the Child in the Manger?  Or it can be that heart bursting, breath taking “Ah” moment.  But instead of looking at it all out there, in the future, wishing that it may one day happen, perhaps the wonder is already here with us in the present moment; when we love “love each separate fragment, (and) understand the mystery of the whole resting in God.”  This is the sacrament of the present moment.  This is the moment when Jesus is born.  Potentially this moment is in every moment that God makes if only we can practice Waiting, Watching and wondering in Advent.