Fourth week in Advent 20th of December till 25th of December 2015
So we come to the final week of our advent coaching course.
I hope you have enjoyed this course as much as I have in creating it. You might have expected heavy goal setting, and action steps, and motivation speeches. But instead it was more about letting go of the old things of the past year that have been collecting (fear, worry, regret) and being prepared for what is coming or more importantly who is coming into your life and what is possible in your life.
Week 1: we looked at Letting go of the blockages to loving and we had a reflection on increasing the most important part of life, your love.
Week 2: we looked at letting go of our story, which causes us sorrow and distress so that we can look to the horizon of hope and possibility.
Week 3: we looked at letting go of our fear, that takes our joy and prevents us from fully expressing ourselves.
Now this week, the final week leading up to Christmas, we prepare for family time and gift giving and the celebration of the birth of Jesus.
I feel the theme I have focused on for this course is really a stripping back of all those things that hold us back from true self expression, vitality, well being, love and fulfilment and being present. Because if we go into the new year with too many worries, fears, blockages and masks, then we run the risk of not being present to the greatest gift: God, family and friends, the poor and lonely.
Before the coming of Jesus, the Jews would prepare sacrifices for God, mainly as a sacrifice for righting wrongs, but also as a thanks giving sacrifice. Jesus came to do the will of his father, which was simply to help us be in relationship with God. To do this he offered his life, letting go of fears, worries, and resentments he walked in integrity and truth, to what he stood for.
In advent we prepare to meet with Jesus. In the gospel reading we hear about Elizabeth the cousin of Mary Mother of Jesus, rejoicing on meeting with Mary:
“Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. She gave a loud cry and said, ‘Of all women you are the most blessed, and blessed is the fruit of your womb. Why should I be honoured with a visit from the mother of my Lord? For the moment your greeting reached my ears, the child in my womb leapt for joy.”
There is something precious here that is worth reflecting on. The gratitude of Elizabeth, the gratitude of the child in her womb, the gratitude of Mary and the gratitude of God in being at the centre of that encounter. Ask yourself have I been grateful in my interactions? How much more could I be grateful? I went to a party last night and there was an 8 week old baby there, I had the opportunity just to stare into her eyes and see the beautiful colour of her eyes, like galaxy’s. Then she smiled with great joy, it was mesmerising. For that moment I realised how worry about what to say, and concerns of what to do can really get in the way of encounter, and encounter with gratitude.
We know that God prepared his coming in Jesus through the prophets, through John the Baptist, through Mary and even now he prepares his coming through teachers and preachers. So there is a lot of preparing going on. The question is how are you preparing? I think this Gospel reveals the best way to prepare: gratitude.
Oprah once said that gratitude is the path way home, and home is where the heart is. We can grow in gratitude just by focusing on what others have done for us and what we have in our life. The more we focus on what we don’t have, the more we go without. I invite you to go to Mass and reflect on all that you have, all that you have been given, and all the people in your life that have some how prepared you to get to where you are right now. Now if you find you are going back to your fears, and complaints on how it hasn’t gone well for you, then perhaps go back to reflecting on letting all that go so that you can reflect on what good you have and what you are grateful for. Exercise the muscle.
If I could summarise it would be this. Preparing is about stripping back all the unnecessary stuff that we collect on our journey. Namely, fears, resentments, worries, justifications, being right, dominating and winning. So that we can be present, so that we can be grateful. If we strip all the blockages to being present and grateful, away, we will be prepared to meet God, and others. If we don’t prepare In this way, we will just be in our heads moaning about how bad we have it and totally miss any encounter with other person. I don’t want that for you. I want you to be totally present to each person in your life and fully alive with them. I want you to be like a blank canvas. It takes time to prepare a blank canvas, to make it firm, and perfectly white, with many layers of paint and sanding back. What better way to be prepared before you are to paint your master piece that will be 2016.
This is your task for the next week, to be prepared for the coming of Jesus, of your loved ones, of strangers. To realise the gift of all that is in your life and to rejoice and be grateful for what you have and what is to come in the new year.
Christmas is not so much about gift giving as it is about appreciating the gift of God in your life and the gift of others and life itself, and then rejoicing in that truth.
It has been a pleasure to share this with you and I am grateful for you.