Life in a prison cell reminds me a great deal of Advent – one waits, and hopes, and potters about, but in the end what we do is of little consequence, for the door is shut and can only be opened from the outside.
~ Dietrich Bonhoeffer
Advent is a time for waiting. I have described the season of Advent this way for years. Yet, with all this talk of waiting, we may easily turn waiting into another “thing we have to do.” To be sure, Christian waiting is active. We are called to be alert, attentive and awake to the presence and activity of God. Such waiting gives way to life-giving change. The potential difficulty, as with any spiritual practice, stems from our need to control the practice and the outcome.
“The door can only be opened from the outside.” We would do well to listen to someone like Bonhoeffer, who prayed in his prison cell. We’re not in control of these things.
I once took a week-long course in which the teacher made sure we showed up for class on the last day by issuing a tickler. He said he would reveal the “secret to all prayer” on the last day of class. Though tempted to cut the week early, practically all the students came to hear the full and wise disclosure on all things related to prayer. As promised, the teacher revealed the “secret” as we sat on the edge of our seats. He told it to us in two simple words: “Show up.”
I need to remember to show up, especially when I approach life as a list of tasks to be accomplished, or when opportunities for worship or prayer become duties on a check list. The invitation to “show up” is an important and gracious invitation to be present to another, to regard creation with a sense of wonder, to listen and not just hear God’s word, to be open to interruptions as potential surprise, and to receive each day as gift.
Advent is a good time to take the time to ponder the mystery of Christ. Can we slow down a bit and take the time? It is a great gift to just show up.
Amen. Come, Lord Jesus.