BY BISHOP JIMMY NUNN
The word "Advent" literally means "coming." It marks the beginning of the Christian year and in 2016 is observed Nov. 26-Dec 24. Advent is one of the seasons of that year when I intentionally reflect on my life and journey with Jesus Christ.
Note that spiritual reflection is more than simply checking a box on a list. I do not try to recount the number of times I worshipped, read the Bible, prayed, or sought to do a good deed. All these are important — but they are outward signs of an inward grace.
Discovering the sources of inward grace is a task of expectant examination. Since Advent proclaims the coming of Christ, this expectation gives rise to an examination of the heart.
Times of distress or celebration both provide clues to the state of my spiritual life. In the ancient tradition of the Desert Ancestors, I have learned everything that happens has meaning; my task is to discover the meaning and to commit myself to following Jesus.
Spiritual reflection is best accomplished by committing to a plan. Here are three commitments in my plan for the season.
1. I plan to enter Advent with a new awareness of my need for grace. Grace is the free gift of God’s love and mercy. I cannot earn it, but my life will be enriched as I open myself to the healing power of grace and as I open my heart to people around me. Yet it is hard to receive grace because it is hard to receive anything that one feels has not been earned. Understanding that grace is what United Methodism offers.
2. I plan to hear a fresh word from God during the Advent season. This commitment will be hard for me to keep because it will require me to slow down. However, I have learned that constant activity does spiritual harm. There are many places I expect to encounter a fresh word from God. One of those places is in the Bible, both in the traditional stories of the season and in unexpected passages. I also expect to find a fresh word from God as I listen to other people share their experiences and as I seek to do something that will be helpful to people in need this season.
3. I plan to grow in my faith this Advent. My friend Jim Jackson writes a daily thought. He shared a profound insight from his wife, Susan, which I’ll paraphrase: We often hear that prayer is talking to God. But when two people are in love with each other, they don’t always talk; sometimes they just gaze in the same direction.
I plan to grow by looking in the same direction that God is looking this season.
What are you planning for Advent 2016?
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