By Dr. Brad Brady
Advent has been a much-welcomed season for me. My soul longs for the interruption these weeks of spiritual preparation provide.
Thus far in the Advent journey, I have found myself repeatedly meditating on a hymn written by Shirley Erena Murray called, “Come and Find the Quiet Center.” In so many ways, these words and melody help me hit “pause” and nudge me to reboot in this season of preparation.
Most of us live our lives with constant noise, escalating stress, and chronic urgency. Even while writing these words, email alerts ar barging in announcing the arrival of another challenge or opportunity. I catch myself reaching to click the inbox to see what’s so urgent. But, thankfully, the Spirit calmly “slaps my wrist” and calls me back to the quiet center.
The Advent season calls us to “clear the chaos and the clutter, clear our eyes that we may see all the things that really matter, be at peace and simply be.”
Anxiety is widespread in our culture and our lives. Our finances, employment, family, faith, responsibilities, commitments, health, safety, and the future dominate our waking hours and interrupt our sleep. This short list of concerns just barely begins to touch the surface of all those things that stir up our restlessness.
And as if our own worry is not enough, we are constantly showered with the anxiety of others. Whether electronically (through television, radio, Internet) or in our multiple personal interactions with others it is hard to remain calm and maintain perspective with anxiety so rampant.
Advent is a season that invites us to find ways to turn off and tune out the noise around us, even if for a brief moment.
Murray describes silence as a friend, as a means to cool the heat and slow the pace. God provides the silence and speaks to us in this silence in ways that offer much needed perspective and balance. God uses this silence to point us back to our true center, which is found only in God.
In the first Advent more than 2,000 years ago, and in each succeeding Advent, God has found humanity and creation in distress. We would be surprised at the similarity found in the root of each year’s suffering and worry.
The consequences of each generation’s sin and the chain reaction of brokenness that follows makes Advent’s announcement of hope and healing that comes in Jesus so welcomed.
Our souls yearn for relief and deliverance. We long for a sustaining Presence to steady our balance, calm our racing heart, refresh us with rest, connect us to the Source of Life, give us appetizer portions of God-centered living, and assure us that there is more to come.
It is my prayer that each of us will find the quiet center in these last few days of Advent; that we will throw out the life-line to others around us who are drowning in their anxieties; and that an increasing number of Christ-followers will authentically and joyfully announce the Good News that comes to the world in Jesus as we embark on the New Year.
Dr. Brad Brady is the Assistant to the Bishop for Connectional Ministries.