Each year as I approach the holiday seasons of Thanksgiving, Advent, and Christmas, I begin with a sense of anticipation and hopefulness. This year, I say, our celebrations will be simpler, more focused on why we celebrate the season, less spending and more giving from the heart, less time rushing around and more time enjoying each moment. And yet, if you are like me, once the season is over, it feels like it flew by and I was never able to give my full attention to anything or anyone.
The spiritual practice I hope you will join me in this season is the practice of mindfulness. Mindfulness is the conscious awareness and attentiveness to the reality of the present moment. It is not trying to recreate past experiences or to be continually looking forward to what is coming up next. It is simply reminding ourselves to “Just focus on this moment and be fully present in it.” So instead of worrying about giving presents, give Presence instead.
In Mary’s Magnificat in Luke 1, she sings, “My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has been mindful of the humble state of his servant.” We practice mindfulness because God is mindful, fully present with us, at each moment of our lives. Recognizing God’s constant loving attentiveness, our soul responds with joy.
The practice of mindfulness does not come naturally. We are often caught in past mistakes or glories, or in making plans for the future, envisioning the perfect holiday party for example. So mindfulness requires practice. Mindfulness enables us to recognize distractions and rescue ourselves from the busyness that prevents us from being present in each moment with each person. Someone has said mindfulness is like a ‘bell sounding’ that calls us back to ourselves, allowing our mind and heart to simply attend to the present moment.
This season, our church is participating in the Advent Conspiracy [AC]. The themes of the [AC] are worship fully, spend less, give more, love all. I have asked several people to write blogs on their interaction with these themes and their hopes for the Advent season, which is a season of preparation for Christmas, the Incarnation of Emmanuel, God with us. We are also encouraging making homemade gifts and considering purchasing items that truly make a difference. I hope you will read and reflect on these blogs as a way to simplify and make the season more meaningful and less chaotic.
Thanksgiving and Advent are key seasons of mindfulness – times that we are called to slow down, to give thanks, to bless others, and to mindfully prepare for the coming of Jesus. Here is a challenge I read in a sermon by Tom Murphy, and I offer it to you as well: “So let’s consider Advent our special call to live more mindfully, to breathe a little slower and deeper, to keep our eyes open for the miracles all around us each day of our lives, and to open our hearts to the greatest of all gifts, Jesus Christ.”
Visit our Advent Conspiracy page here.