Well, here we are. The time of Orthodox Advent, Traditional Advent, Ashura, Hanakkuh, Kwanzaa, Christmas and the like. It is wrapped for us in glitz, busyness, and noise. Just thinking about it can make one tired, right?
In the hullabaloo that has become this “holiday” time of year, it seems appropriate to consider again a passage recently offered in the Revised Common Lectionary. In Psalm 46, the Psalmist addresses the time in which we are suspended: between God’s revealing himself at Creation and the time when all is set aright and made complete. We live in a time when the seas roar and nations war one with the other.
Eugene Peterson’s interpretation of this well known Psalm tells us to stop what we are doing and, “Step out of the traffic! Take a long, loving look at me, your High God, above politics, above everything.”
Stop? Be still? Take a long, loving look? Who has time for that?? That is so counter-holiday-cultural and weird. It’s so … unproductive…so…uncomfortable for some of us!
In Advent, Christians embrace the time between Emmanuel’s birth and the time when Christ will be “all in all” at the completion of God’s work begun at creation. We recognize again that we live in a time of spiritual waiting. In this time of waiting, we are faced with turmoil within our personal lives and conflict visible all around us. We can feel lost. We can feel consumed. We can easily lose our focus. If we are truthful with ourselves, we can have doubts, asking “Who is God? Is God there? Do I really believe?” (We are in good company with the doubts. Remember the Apostle Paul? John of the Cross’s “dark night of the soul?” Martin Luther? Mother Teresa?)
Taking to heart the words of the Psalmist, however, we need to take the time to be still and know God in order for everything else to be in focus. We can emerge from the stillness with clarity, with renewed strength, knowing God and thus, God’s peace.
The stillness we are to employ is not borne out of boredom or obligation, however. It is rather an engaged stillness, a purposeful stillness. In her book “The Religious Potential of the Child” Dr. Sofia Cavalletti notes that the kind of silence necessary is an interior silence, an intentional settling of oneself, and it is accompanied by listening. (p.136). Cavalletti goes on to say that listening in the silence is “a leaning towards…” and is “the opening of ourselves in a receptive attitude towards” God.
Amid mounting holiday tensions, final exams, traveling, speculating on bowl games, wiki-leaks, unrest overseas, financial difficulties and the weight of the many lists before us, let us heed once more the words of the Psalmist during this Advent season. May we listen in intentional stillness, leaning in towards God a bit and away from the world for a while. Let us breathe in God’s presence with us. Perhaps then, we will know that God is exalted –God is above politics, and above everything, and we, like the Psalmist, will emerge from that stillness with God with clarity, renewed strength, and peace for the days ahead.