First Sunday of Advent
The word that Isaiah the (prophet) saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem.
2 It shall come to pass in the latter days
that the mountain of the house of the Lord
shall be established as the highest of the mountains,
and shall be lifted up above the hills;
and all the nations shall flow to it,
3 and many peoples shall come, and say:
“Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord,
to the house of the God of Jacob,
that he may teach us his ways
and that we may walk in his paths.”
For out of Zion shall go forth the law,[a]
and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem.
4 He shall judge between the nations,
and shall decide disputes for many peoples;
and they shall beat their swords into plowshares,
and their spears into pruning hooks;
nation shall not lift up sword against nation,
neither shall they learn war anymore.
5 O house of Jacob,
come, let us walk
in the light of the Lord.
We start Advent, the season of waiting for the arrival of the Christ Child, with the image of the mountain of the Lord. It is the highest of mountains, one that all people of the nations will flow to like a river to see the glory and majesty of the Lord and the coming of a time of peace when people resolve their conflicts and walk in the light of the Lord.
This is an invitation, a journey, the path ahead, a time of waiting to the see the salvation of the Lord, the coming Light in the darkness. We watch and wait for what is still to come. Jesus often invited his friends to the mountain, a place of refuge, prayer, and solitude. Now, we also accept the invitation to the mountain in this season, which is for many a mixture of joy, anxiety, sadness, family, loneliness, busyness, and celebration.
Come let us walk in the light.
IMAGINE. Give yourself the gift of some quiet moments, light a candle, center yourself, re-read the vision of Isaiah, and go to the sacred place to sit and listen to voice of the Lord God. Using your imagination, see yourself at the mountain of the Lord. Hear these words of invitation:
“Come dear one, let’s go up to the mountain and spend some time together. I want you to know my ways and walk in the light of the Lord.”
As you start walking, the field is broad and beautiful with green grass and flowers, and you breathe in the fresh air gratefully. The path ahead draws you forward and you hike higher up the mountain. You move with purpose up the rocky and steep path until you need to stop to catch your breath. You sit for awhile on a rock overlooking the river below, seeing the beauty and majesty of creation and creatures. In this silent moment, the Lord takes the opportunity of rest to ask you:
“What are your thoughts and dreams? My prophet Isaiah had a dream for swords to become plows, for people to leave behind war, and that all people would come together in peace, life, and hope. What personal dreams do you bring to this holy place of prayer?”
RESPOND. As you continue this conversation with the Lord, answer out loud or write in a journal your thoughts and dreams for this Advent season of waiting for the coming of the Lord.
PRACTICE. What spiritual practices help you keep a steady attention to the voice of the Lord God?
My students in a Spiritual Formation course answered this question for an essay assignment. I was so taken by the humility and sincerity of their answers, that I would like to share some of them.
- Solitude. One student says: “Through cultivating the habit of solitude each morning for 30 minutes, I listen to the Shepherd’s voice. As I give full attention to God, he brings situations, flashbacks, people, and useful ideas that flow through my mind to discern God’s will.”
- Journaling. “I write my thoughts, discoveries, and insights in my journal. By expressing my pain and challenges, I experience the peace of God’s presence in the midst of noise.”
- Being Ruthless with Sin. Another student says: “God calls me to holiness as he is holy. I have to be deliberate to say no to sin and ask forgiveness when I go off course.”
- Join a Group of Like-Minded Believers. “When we listen together, we better align our ears to hear a word for a particular season.”
- Fast from Distractions. “Fasting from things such as social media, that distract me from being attentive to the presence of God, breaks my self-exaltation and laziness.”
- Read God’s Word. “I find clear instructions and God speaks! I also imagine and dream these words later.”
- Serve. “Serving takes my eyes and ears off myself to see and hear the love of God in community.”
What practice might you add to this list. What practice do you sense would be helpful in the coming weeks to keep steady attention to the voice of the Lord God?
Resource. The Advent season includes the four Sundays leading up to Christmas. “Advent” means “coming” or “arrival.” The hymns and readings used during this season seem to be about two quite different things: about waiting for the “first coming,” the birth of Jesus, and about waiting for his “second coming” to put all things right in the end. Click on the link below for a calendar of readings.