The emails flying back and forth create a picture, comical yet somehow sad: "Would love to see you all, but can't do tomorrow, maybe the 10th?" and "I can't do the 10th, how about the 19th?"
Five of us, my closest girlfriends, are trying to find a time to get together during December. Just us, we wouldn't even dare attempt trying to include spouses or kids. So far we have intentions, but no two-hour window when all of us are free.
Our calendars groan under the weight of obligations. The church calendar, meanwhile, declares the season of Advent (from the Latin adventus, "coming"), a season of waiting. More than a countdown to Christmas, Advent anticipates—not just a day of feasting and presents, but the quiet miracle of the incarnation.
How do we care for our souls in Advent? How do we watch for the light of Jesus? For ministry leaders, everything from children's Christmas pageants to planning multiple Christmas services can make the month of December a time of stress and busyness that leaves us feeling worn out, rather than reflective. We are trying to slog through December, and the only thing we are waiting for is for it to be over.
Your ability to be fully present with the people or children you lead will depend on your ability to be present with God. This is true not just in Advent but all year long. It just gets harder in this season—and therefore more crucial.
Two practices will be helpful to us as leaders: saying yes, and saying no.
Say yes to just five minutes of reflection in the morning. In the dim light of a winter morning, I light a candle and read something short from an Advent devotional, or a verse or two from the Old Testament Messianic prophesies (try Isaiah).
This year, I'm reading A Guide to Prayer for All Who Seek God, a lectionary for the whole year that begins with readings for Advent. This morning I underlined this about the incarnation: "God who made all that is became clothed in our human flesh so that we might become clothed in God."
What would your life look like this season if you said yes to being "clothed with God," with acting as Jesus would if he lived your life? What would you have to say no to, in order to do so?
Saying no means delegating, politely declining some invitations, being willing to let others (who might not do things exactly as you would) to take over certain tasks. It means being willing to release control. It might mean sending greeting cards in January or not at all, or taking a "pot-luck" approach to holiday entertaining, or turning down an invitation to give yourself a night to just be at home and quiet.
How can you say no to the busyness, and yes to quiet waiting and wondering? What specific things will you say yes and no to this Advent to care for your soul?
Keri Wyatt Kent is the author of nine books, all of which help readers slow down and listen to God. A popular retreat leader and speaker, she is a regular contributor to several websites and blogs, including Kyria.com and her own at KeriWyattKent.com