A Contemplative Christmas: Approaching Advent

By Jan Richardson

Wise Women Also Came © Jan L. RichardsonIn her book Dakota: A Spiritual Geography, Kathleen Norris tells a story that's said to come from a Russian Orthodox monastery. A seasoned monk, long accustomed to the tradition of monastic hospitality that welcomes all guests as Christ, says to a young monk, "I have finally learned to accept people as they are. Whatever they are in the world, a prostitute, a prime minister, it is all the same to me. But sometimes," the monk continues, "I see a stranger coming up the road and I say, ‘Oh, Jesus Christ, is it you again?'"

Advent is just around the corner (this year the first Sunday of Advent is on November 29), and I have found myself thinking about this story as I begin to turn my attention toward this season of anticipation. In the rhythm of the Christian year, Advent is a time that beckons us to consider how -- and whether -- we are looking for the Christ who comes to us anew in this season. How do we keep our eyes open to the holy one who is so fond of hiding out in the most surprising disguises, again and again and again?  On those occasions when we do recognize the presence of Christ, how do we welcome him into our midst? Are we leaving enough space in our days to linger with the Christ who comes to us in this and every season?

These are a few of the questions I'm pondering as I prepare to enter into the coming Advent days. How about you? What's on your mind and tugging at your soul as this sacred season draws close? What do you hope to welcome into your life as we begin to journey toward the celebration of Christmas?

 

This is the first in a series of Advent reflections by Jan Richardson at the Mainline Protestant Portal at Patheos.

Jan Richardson is a writer, artist, minister, and director of a company called The Wellspring Studio, LLC. Her favorite projects are those that intertwine words and images, including her small press, Wanton Gospeller Press, through which she designs and hand-binds books that incorporate her art and writing. Visit her virtual studio at janrichardson.com. Her two blogs are The Painted Prayerbook and The Advent Door.