As I look East through the windows of my prayer corner, I can see the sunrise. I imagine all the rest that lie east of me: my children with their families, my friends around the world, the griefs and sorrows of this aching world with its terror and pain, the groaning planet. I think of the Advent hymn, “People, Look East,” and take it as a template for my reflections this season.
People, look east, the time is near of the crowning of the year. Make your house fair as you are able; trim the hearth and set the table.People, look east and sing today: Love, the Guest, is on the way. (Eleanor Farjeon)
I am longing to be a person with a heart of welcome this Advent. The sacred texts for the season are ones of invitation and anticipation, all looking forward to the celebration of the birth of Christ and looking ahead to the advent of the peaceable rule of God on the earth. If I am joining in that welcoming and hoping, into what space am I welcoming them?
We had guests for dinner last night, hoped-for guests that we had not seen for awhile. We would not have considered allowing them to come had we not made “the house fair as we were able…set the table.” So it required of us an un-cluttering, vacuuming, sweeping, then making a simple centerpiece with a candle, concocting a lovely stew that had no turkey after the Thanksgiving overage, and making sure the lights were set so we could all see one another well in conversation. Then we waited.Until the clarion shriek of the excited puppy let us know that they had arrived.
I am musing on what practices of heart are welcoming ones for this Advent season.
- an un-cluttering: letting go of those attitudes and habits that cloud my vision of the Holy One, present with me always, yet still wanting to lead me more deeply into the Mystery. The clutter consists in part of old lists of hurts and slights, old habits of acedia and sloth, and anticipatory anxiety instead of anticipatory hope. Spirit, come sweep away the things that clutter.
- making beauty: bringing Advent beauty slowly, gradually into the house, recognizing that there is still darkness that surrounds us–in the east and other places, yet I want to know Light and to share it with those who have no access to it. I begin with my Advent wreath, one candle only today, soaps with angels in the guest bathroom, a small bouquet of purple tulips to greet those with whom I sit in spiritual direction this week and music that replenishes, grounds and fills me up. Spirit, let you beauty be a creative spark in me.
- creating love gifts: beginning with those who need it most– the lonely, the housebound, the estranged, the angry and the confused, For some it is a visit, a call or a card; for others it is a token of remembrance of a different time. Or maybe a cup of cold water. Spirit, fill me with love and a keen eye to take note of who needs your love the most.
- light up my heart: keep me from absorbing the darkness and gloom of others around me–in politics, in Church devolution, in sickness of systems, in brokenness of persons, in disappointments at what the aging process is asking of me. Give me oil in my lamp, keep me burning. Spirit, lighten my darkness.
I am praying for a welcoming heart for the Guests that the Holy One sends me this Advent, and to that end I am engaging in practices that will welcome the Guest in whatever guise She appears.
Personal photo of sculpture by Judy Chicago in exhibit in Santa Fe, New Mexico.