There is an advertising campaign on TV which instructs young children on how to cross the road safely. The four steps are found in the title. Once you’ve approached the road you stop walking, look both ways for traffic, listen in case there is more you may not have seen and think about what to do next. (You’ve done the rest but could still walk out into traffic if you’re not being attentive.)
This sums up the attitude of Advent. Concluding our liturgical year we approach the coming of Christ. In preparation we stop, look, listen, think.
…Gathering lambs in his arms and leading them to their rest.
Advent, it is realized, is a time for slowing down. In its busyness life can pass us by – or rather we can pass it by. Stoping allows us time and space to recollect ourselves, breathe and remember the way we ought to live, the way of Jesus, without spot or stain. We begin the process of welcoming him again by separating ourselves not from the world necessarily but rather from the pace of the world. Don’t be afraid to stand still.
Let us see, O Lord, your mercy and grant us your saving help.
Self examination has a long history in the church and this preparatory season is a perfect time to return to this practice. Looking internally we see our sins and our failings, our selfishness and our frailty. But this is counterbalanced with the recognition of our need of a saviour, for whom we long. Confession is a great way – I would say, a necessary way – to embrace Advent. Looking out with the eyes of Jesus we begin to see the movement of the Spirit in the world: a kind act here; encouragement there. Looking through the eyes of God we begin to recognize God; we see the great things he is doing.
The voice of The Lord has spoken.
It is no secret that we live in the age of noise. Silence is a rare commodity and is being infringed upon like logging to a forest. Our attention is demanded, our thoughts distracted. Even in prayer our minds can wonder. When we listen, truly listen, we deepen attentiveness. Enabling a connection beyond words, we listen to the tone, the rythym, the heart to which God speaks. We may be blessed to hear the still small voice of God.
Think before you do anything; hold on to what is good.
Upon hearing the voice of God with our hearts we meditate, chewing them over in out mind. Are we to act? Where is our next step? Are we to remain? For how long? Despite these practicalities keeping our mind on God and being able to see where he has worked in our lives, we can be sure that we will recognize him when he comes.
And he does come. This is our certainty: that God becomes man; a mystery and reality far beyond comprehension. But we may grasp something of it if we are prepared to receive it. Stop. Look. Listen. Think.