“The Christmas season is a journey of heart and hand—feeling and creating, being filled with wonder and awe, enjoying the simple act of decorating a tree or making an Advent wreath.”—Larry Peacock
I remember standing on a street corner talking with two friends who were extolling the virtues of walking with hand and ankle weights. They had seen me walking my dog many mornings and thought I would be healthier if I adopted the weights. One person was particularly passionate about this until the other one said, “If they are so good, why don’t you use them?”
We know that spiritual practices can deepen our relationship with God, strengthen our compassion for the world, and bring us closer to others, but often we don’t do them, or we feel guilty about not doing them right or often enough. Even the apostle Paul wondered why he did not do the good he wanted to do but instead did what he did not want to do (Romans 7:19). The desire to draw close to God lies deep within us, and the four weeks of Advent offer a good opportunity to begin or rekindle spiritual practices that prepare us to welcome the Christ child.
Many people think of spiritual practices as sitting and being quiet, and indeed some practices invite quiet contemplation. But Advent and Christmas also give us a wealth of choices and traditions that involve candles, music, nativity figures, stars, angels, Christmas trees and pageants, making cards and gifts, and more. This time of year is a journey of heart and hand—feeling and creating, being filled with wonder and awe, enjoying the simple act of decorating a tree or making an Advent wreath.
Our family approaches Christmas this year with an almost two-year-old granddaughter. I will be watching closely to see how she responds to the music and candles and Christmas lights. Other years, our Christmas centered around the church community I served as pastor—with highlights like the children’s pageant, the choir concert, and the moonlight labyrinth walk. Some years, we gathered with dear friends for a special meal and time of devotions. I hope you will find time for individual pondering and for group reflection with families, church communities, and special friends. This time of year seems like a conspiracy of wonder drawing people together—strangers and neighbors, even people of other faith traditions—to share in the spirit of peace and joy.
Come, let us journey together, recovering spiritual practices, finding communities to share the experience.
Larry Peacock is the author of The Living Nativity: Preparing for Christmas with Saint Francis. He is director of the Franciscan Spiritual Center in Milwaukie, Oregon. A retired United Methodist pastor, Peacock is a trained spiritual director and retreat leader.
The Living Nativity by Larry Peacock is available as a book or an eCourse to guide you in a prayerful, ritual-full, activity-full journey to Christmas and to encourage a daily habit of reading, reflecting, and praying. It invites you to prepare individually or with a group that will help you be accountable and support you in renewing your spiritual practices.
The book gives you an optional bonus week to help you develop the good habits of prayer, reflection, and compassion.
LEARN MORE AT MYLIVINGNATIVITY.ORG
Joining friends at The Upper Room in morning prayer on Facebook Live has been an anchor in the storm during recent weeks. In the chaos of trying to figure out how to do ministry in strange and uncertain times, it was a compelling call to stop, breathe, listen, and be in community with those who gather "where the world meets to pray." Join us each day for morning prayer.