It's Advent. Many United Methodists as well as lots of Christians from other traditions use the period starting with the fourth Sunday ahead of Christmas as a time to reflect and prepare spiritually before Christmas, which at its heart is a celebration recalling God's great gift of His only Son, to save from sin the world's people, whom He created and loves.
Some years, I've been all in with daily devotionals (some of which used meditations that were written and shared by church members including myself) or other practices with an Advent theme.
This year, I really didn't think I would do anything extra for Advent. I recently took on a spiritual discipline that includes writing down each day a goal and also looking back at the day just passed to identify some service I did; some surprise from God; and two things for which I am grateful. This is supposed to be simple, but I've found it to be fairly challenging, especially trying to identify something I've done in a day that might be considered service. It has been a good exercise, though, and seems to be one more step toward clarifying what is important in my life from daily and longer-term perspectives.
Today is the ninth day of that exercise, and what I've seen so far is that it seems to be helping me go beyond what I might have done some other days. More than once I've had to stretch to identify something I would call service, and one day, I just said I couldn't identify anything. I mean, is having a good attitude at work really a service? But that's all I could come up with one day.
By the weekend, I was choosing to do things that just a few I days ago I wouldn't have bothered to do. Among them: socializing with two groups of friends, conversations with sisters and meeting my husband for a meal on Saturday. On Sunday, I went to a church meeting I hadn't known about in advance and really didn't want to take time to attend. But its timing seemed somewhat custom-made for me, and so I went, and I was blessed in unexpected ways.
This all comes amid some changes at work that don't affect what I do, but do affect some of whom I do it with. And change typically unsettles me. Plus, this week I'm on an unstructured vacation time -- lots of things "on my list," but nothing I have to get done -- which in the past has often ended up with me feeling lots of regret for wasted time and opportunities. I was feeling my most unsettled Friday night and pretty much dreading the week ahead. But one step and decision at a time, I feel blessed. The hardest part will be accepting that whatever I do is enough. God truly tells me it is, but I'm not always a believer.
Back to Advent. I think this is probably covered in my new writing exercise, but for this period, I want to be sure and do at least one thing each day that I would not have done if not for this focus. Yesterday, it was the church meeting. Today, I hope it will be followup correspondence with two friends.
I need structure and guidelines and goals, and yet I feel apprehensive about not being able to live up to expectations when they are in place. But, again, I think of Advent, and Mary's response when she was told she, a virgin, would give birth to a son -- the son of God. Was she afraid? Maybe initially. But soon a song poured forth from her heart. (See Luke 1:26-55.) And she has been blessed through the ages.
I don't think God has anything like that planned out for me, but I do think He has a plan. I continue to pray to humbly seek and trust and obey and praise Him, knowing that fear is overcome by faith (even though I may not realize that until I look back!).